Reader comments generate new leads and information.

RE Post: About this site.
By Ken Skelton

Two survivors, Frank Ruffalo and Sam Vasquez, reunited at my home in Arizona today (May 11). Would you like a photo of them? [Editor’s Note: “Yes, certainly!”]

Vasquez and Ruffalo

Ditching survivors Samuel Vasquez of Phoenix, left, and Frank Ruffalo of Chicago, right,  do some “catching up” after 52 years on May 11 in Arizona.

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RE Post: Paul R. Stewart – Lifted off rescue ship at Antwerp, Belgium

My name is Erik Stewart. My father is Paul Stewart. [see post of May 27, 2014] My brother and I have told him about the site. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to get a hold of my father. [Editor’s Note: “We have gotten in contact. I’ve looked for him for nearly three years. Thanks for the info Erik.”]

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RE Post: Bonaventure: The invisible giant!
by Ken King Kincardine, Ontario Canada

I was a crew member of the Bonaventure at the time. I was a flight deck electrician on the Bonnie. I remember the situation quite well. I think the highlight was watching our two rescue helicopters, namely Pedro and Fallen Angel transferring survivors and deceased from the Celerina to the Bonnie The pilots had to align themselves between the masts of the Celerina and adjusting their machines to match the heaving seas which were quite rough at the time. Quite feat to say the least. After treating the injured survivors, we sailed for Shannon, Ireland and transferred the survivors and deceased to the Shannon airport for transfer back to the United States.

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RE Post: World Crises Build in September 1962
by Gregory James Smith

It’s eery to read about 1962 in the context of the new cold war, troubles with Russia, a plane down at sea, etc.

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RE Post: Robert Eldred: “The hand of God was at the controls of the plane.”
by Carol Hansen, surviving Stewardess

I remember Robert Elred and he is absolutely correct about Sam Nickolson. If it was not for Sam and God I would not be here today.

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RE post: Melvin Baney: Just trying to do the right thing…
by Dianne (Hauntsman) Sperre

Melvin was my uncle, my mother Shirley, was Marjorie’s sister. I was only 2 when this tragedy occurred, so obviously I don’t remember any of the details. My mother and aunt Marjorie were very close, so my family spent a lot of time with the Baney family. I commend Joan and Jim for being so open in their narrative. In reading this article I got my first view of my uncle Red. Wow, Jim and Gene really look like him.

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RE post: Richard M. Miskimen: Airman’s wife tells of tragic loss
by Mel Mushaney

Dick Miskimen was a very good friend of mine in So Georgia, he and went to New Philly for Xmas and I met his Mother, brother and sister, I still pictures of that trip. I send Xmas card to Dick’s Mother until one Dick’s sister told me she had died, if Dot or Karen read this hope they will contact me. Mel

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RE post: About this site.
by Gordon Williams

Hello Fred, I’ve just found your site; very good; at the time I was on HMCS Bonaventure. Here are a few notes from my diary. “Sept 17, 1962 HMCS Bonaventure leaves Halifax, Nova Scotia with destroyer escorts Athabasca, Cayuga, Micmac, Nooka, and Crescent enroute Rotterdam.
Sept 24 2154Z received report of Flying Tiger Constellation ditching 320 miles NW;
76 passengers, Bonnie heading there at full speed with Athabasca,
Sept 25 0330Z Swiss ship Celerina sights rafts, “many survivors”
0400Z Bonnie launched Tracker aircraft; MV Anadina rescued some;
1330Z planes search area, Bonnie has 12 bodies aboard, 3 from Celerina, and
9 from Anadina, also 3 injured survivors , rest are on Celerina
16 missing, 48 survived, 12 dead
Sept 27 at Shannon, Ireland; bodies flown ashore by helicopters;

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RE post: Richard M. Miskimen: Airman’s wife tells of tragic loss
by Patricia Leonard

How wonderful (and absolutely amazing) that Karen (former Mrs. Miskimen) found the website. Coincidence? I think not. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Perhaps Richard guided her to it. I like to think so, anyway.

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RE Post: Ditching of Flight 923 is an Atlantic ‘First’
by Henry Blake, Xenia, OH

I believe Karen nailed it. It’s amazing how anyone made it out alive from having to spend any time in such cold water. I filled a sink with water and added a few ice cubes to get the temp down to 40 degrees. My friend could only hold his hand in it for 5 minutes before pulling it out. I asked him if he thought he could swim in water that cold. He said, “Never”.

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RE post: Skip Davidson: I knew it was swim or die.
by Sgt. Joseph C Whittington

I was at Fort Benning in Skip Davidson’s class and we all did not get orders to Germany. I went to
Fort Campbell, KY 101st ABN. I watched the Connie’s take off from Fort Benning and was sad not to be going to Germany.

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Posted in flight crew, new combat troopers, passengers | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Paul R. Stewart – Lifted off rescue ship at Antwerp, Belgium

Pvt. Paul R. Stewart of Ardmore, Oklahoma, was one of the youngest paratroopers on board Flying Tiger 923 when it ditched in the frigid north Atlantic some 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland. It was a Sunday night, September 23, 1962. Stewart had enlisted within days of turning 17 years of age and had just graduated from parachute training at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

His mother, Mrs. Grace Stewart, got word early the following day, Monday morning, by telegram advising her that her son was in the crash and as yet was missing at sea and that rescue ships were on their way to pick up the bodies.

Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart grins as he is lifted off the rescue ship Celerina on a stretcher at the dock at Antwerp, Belgium. He suffered a deep cut on his right leg, which required a cast.

A reporter at the Daily Oklahoman news was the first to deliver the news late that same day that Paul was alive and on board the Swiss rescue ship, Celerina. Information on his condition was not then available.

Paul’s sister, Marguilla, answered the phone and when told her brother was rescued, broke down in tears of joy. His mother, Grace, said when called to the phone, according to the newspaper reporter, “Oh, it’s wonderful. I’ve worried and worried — ever since early this morning when we got the telegram.

“You don’t know how much I’ve … her voice trailed off.

“I’m so happy. That’s my baby you know,” she said.

Pvt. Steward suffered a deep cut on his left leg, but was not airlifted from the rescue freighter when it got close to Cork, Ireland. He remained on the Celerina until it arrived three days later at Antwerp, Belgium. He was taken off the ship on a stretcher, with his leg in a cast.

It didn’t take long for him to recover enough to continue to his assignment as a combat infantryman at Lee Barracks, in Gonsenheim, Germany (near Mainz). He served at that post for the next three years.

The writer of this blog story tried repeatedly to find he or his family, but unfortunately was unable to do so. The Stewarts of Ardmore 50 years later seemed not to be related and unable to lead to his whereabouts. The writer, Fred Caruso, and Paul were close associates at Lee Barracks, serving with the same unit, the 505th Airborne Infantry.

The information and notification scenario described above happened in a number of communities: tragic news of the crash delivered by telegram and joyful news by telephone from news reporters. The Army followed up with the good news by post some days later. None of the combat personnel reported their families having direct contact by Army officials delivering news or condolences in person.

Posted in new combat troopers | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Restoration Clubs Keep the Super Constellation Alive

Restoration clubs around the world are beginning to bring the Super Constellation back to life with hard work by a lot of volunteers and funds provided by generous sponsors.

A Swiss friend of “Flying Tiger 923”, Peter W. Frey, an adventurer and a freelance journalist from Hausen, Switzerland directed us to a treasure chest of Super

Peter Frey

Peter Frey – Recording on Location

Constellation videos hosted on YouTube.com. In his recent travels, he met Captain Ernst Frei, a retired Swissair/Swiss captain who flies a beautifully restored Super Constellation L-1049F HB-RSC registered in Switzerland to the “Super Constellation Flyers Association” (SCFA), of which he is a member. The financial sponsor of this meticulous restoration project is the Breitling luxury watch brand. The aircraft is currently being used to transport VIP tourists to Swiss resorts.

Here is a 2 minute, five second close up video of the workings of the restored Breitling Super Constellation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEaSDqxZVoY

You will find several clubs around the world working to bring “The Queen of the Atlantic” back to life. There are many videos posted. There is no charge for viewing them. Watch as many as you like. The videos run from less than 1 minute up to 7 to 8 minutes.

One particularly realistic video is “Flying in a Lockheed Constellation in the 1950’s”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrXgb8eZIxk

Poke around and be amazed to see how many videos there are. Can you find the video of flames at the rear of the Super Constellation?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Robert Eldred: “The hand of God was at the controls of the plane.”

Retired Army Captain Robert C. Eldred was one of the 17 survivors evacuated from the Swiss rescue ship Celerina by RAF Helicopter. He was interviewed on the tarmac of the new Cork Airport as rescue teams transported the injured to Mercy Hospital in downtown Cork. Captain Eldred is mentioned in a number of short news clips and in almost every case he devoted his words to giving praise to others (see story of Pvt. Willy Smith). The following is quoted from the Cork Examiner news of September 27, 1962, and is focused on him. It is probably the most detailed and accurate view of the Captain’s story:
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‘The hand of God was at the controls of the plane.’ With those dramatic words retired US Army Captain Robert Eldred (49) of East Dennis, Mass., gave his reason why the 48 people were saved from the cold waters of the Atlantic when the airliner ditched in the sea after three engines failed, 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland. Continue reading

Posted in passengers, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Flying Tiger 923 and the Raging North Atlantic – A Video

Taken in the same area of the North Atlantic on the afternoon of the very day of the demise of Flying Tiger 923 (Sept. 22-23, 1962), a 19-year-old crew member of the rescue ship Celerina, Pierre Andre Reymond took a two and a half minute long movie clip of the raging seas in which we ditched.

Click this link:   Flying Tiger 923 and Raging North Atlantic

Pierre Reymond

Pierre Reymond

The original was an 8 mm film was taken from the deck of the rescue ship only hours before the crash.

The storm and the seas grew more violent as the night wore on. The 51 passengers navigated the 10 to 15 foot waves and 35 foot swells for nearly six hours in an upside-down rubber life raft built to hold only 25. The overloaded raft was blown a distance of 22 miles in those six hours until it was intercepted by the Celerina. Forty eight survived the ordeal.

This video is astonishing. If you have not yet seen it, you must view it now.

Click this link:  Flying Tiger 923 and Raging North Atlantic

Thanks to Pierre-Andre, we are able to give readers an idea of conditions the night that cost the lives of 28. This video was first posted in June of 2012. It is being reposted as many new readers may not have seen it.

As of this posting, the video has had more than 1,300 views.

[Note: The reference to "September 22-23" is due to the flight crossing time zones. The crash occurred on September 23.]

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reader memories stirred by website stories

Reader comments suggest the value of this effort:
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Barbara Murray,  barbaramurray63@hotmail.com
Hi there! I am Barbara Murray, daughter of John Murray. What an amazing story! And you know my dad and mom never really explained what happened. It was just considered that he was merely doing his job. I was only 5 when he died and would love to know more about the whole situation. My kids have read this about their granddad and are flabbergasted! My mail is barbaramurray63@hotmail.com
 I hope to hear from you.
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Mary A. Gibson,  Leann2628@att.net
My family and I were scheduled to leave McGuire AFB in Sept 23, 1962; destination Frankfort, Germany. My husband was a Marine to be attached to the U.S Consulate in Frankfort. Our scheduled flight was on Flying Tiger 923 but my husband cancelled it and we took a later flight on American Airlines 707. Fate must have intervened on our behalf.
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S. Robert Campbell,  karob@av.eastlink.ca
I was posted to the Bonaventure three years after the Flying Tiger accident. Men I worked with were onboard at the time of the rescue efforts and told many anecdotal stories concerning the ship’s role in the rescue/recovery efforts. One point about the story on this site – Bonaventure did not have Air Force pilots on board. Canada had a Fleet Air Arm in those days and the pilots on Bonnie were Naval Officers, the air crewmen were RCN ratings
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Ragnar Domstad,  ragnar.domstad@gmail.com
I am the photographer of the N6923C. As Peter Frey mentioned, I don´t claim any copyright, but I ask to be mentioned as photographer. It is a strange feeling to know that “our” Super Connie ditched a year later. After fueling at Shannon, Ireland, we continued but had to land at Gander as the whole Eastern seaboard was closed due to fog. Reader memories stirred by website storiesSomewhat delayed, we arrived at Idlewild. As our study tour was a success, I was asked to arrange some more tours the following years, and in June 1962 we had another Super Connie chartered and a year later also.

When I first heard of the Flying Tiger Line, it was in a small notice in a newspaper. It said that Flying Tiger had passengers from the US to Europe in the beginning of the summer and vice versa at the end of the summer. They offered cheap charter flights from Europe in the beginning of the summer and back at the end of the summer to fill otherwise empty planes.
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Paul Feldman,  paulhfeldman@gmail.com
I was 5 years old flying from McGuire to Paris in 1962 on this very plane. My father was a sergeant being transferred to Chalmount AFB. I remember several things.

1. We stopped in New Foundland and then made another stop in the Azores.

2. I remember seeing the exhaust flaming all night, I had a window seat.

3. When we were approaching Paris, the left #2 engine was shut down. I distinctly remember me and my brothers saying something to my father, to assure us, which was not true he said the pilot always shuts down engines when landing.

4. I remember my father telling us the plane crashed on its next trip.

Luckily, when we returned to McGuire in 1966 we were on a Pan Am 707.

Just thought I would share this.
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Raymond Lewis,  raysco1@live.ca
Please verify (if I’m right) that the Canadian war ship H.M.C.S. Bonaventure and it’s 4 (four) Destroyer Escorts attended this tragedy. Some of the persons involved in this mishap were taken to the H.M.C.S. Bonaventure’s sickbay. The ships milk cooler was emptied and used as a morgue.

The Canadian ships then proceeded to Shannon Ireland. I was serving on the H.M.C.S. Bonaventure when this mishap occurred. Please if you can, verify this happening I would be so grateful to show my grandchildren the perils of the Atlantic.
Thank you
Raymond Lewis
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Pierre Reymond, crew-member of the Swiss freighter Celerina reymondsurveys@gmail.com
Thanks for this excellent text. In my report on the Celerina,  I wrote some comments about Captain John Murray:

…. I attend to the aircraft’s Pilot who has a head wound. Soon he asks me if he can see our captain. I give him some rudimentary care and after he has rested a little, I go up with him on the bridge. No words are needed. The handshake of the two Captains is an emotional instant that reveals a lot about the thoughts of both men.

…. Personally, I made friends with John Murray, the pilot of the Super-Constellation, who was 44 years old then. Together we discussed the difficult decisions he had to make when the accident happened. Particularly, he had to choose whether to ditch “with” the waves or “against” them. Landing “with” a wave is generally preferable on one hand, but in that case the wind carries the plane with less airspeed and the aircraft may “fall” too roughly. The pilot finally chose the last solution intuitively and he worked with the wind as far as possible until the impact. “And if you had to do this over again?”, I asked. He said he would try to land as close as possible to a ship, provided one could ascertain its position.
 This conversation has remained in my memory, even though communication between air and sea and rescue methods have made a lot of progress nowadays.

Remember the state of the sea at the time of the ditching!
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Kenneth D Stellon  barbken1825@yahoo.com
Just went to lunch with Frank Ruffalo who was a army paratrooper who survived this crash. He was relating his experience and mentioned Fred Caruso. What a fascinating and horrifying story! Frank is from Chicago. Our wives were best friends in grade school. They reconnected at a recent reunion. Although from the same neighborhood, Frank and I did not really know each other, but I remember others talking about his ordeal. He does not use the internet, but I plan to tell him about this web site. He did have a copy of the Saturday Evening Post story about the crash. It does make you realize the incredible sacrifices young people make as members of our armed forces. Thank you for this site.*     *     *     *     *

James L. Clark,  jclark31@cfl.rr.com
After more than 50 years since flying as a navigator with FTL my memories of flying on two of the four A/C that were lost in 1962 came flooding back, all spurred by hearing Carol recount her experiences at last year’s FTLPA convention.
 During 1962 I had over 160 hours in FT-923 and FT-913 over Mid and North Pacific routes. The loss of 913 was also the night of the loss of a good friend, Karl Rader, with whom I had spent time with hunting and fishing in Cold Bay during our stay overs.
 In 1964 I changed careers, obtained my pilot’s license and have since flown over 8,000 hours in the left seat.
 The six years flying for the Marine Corps and FTL provided me a great background within which to continue to use flying to further my business career. More importantly I had the pleasure of meeting and flying with my childhood hero’s of the original Flying Tigers, like Dick Rossi, Gil Bright, Ed Rector and Bob Neale.
 Safe journeys to you.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Richard M. Miskimen: Airman’s wife tells of tragic loss

At the time of the ditching of Flying Tiger 923, September 23, 1962, Dorothy Neisen was married to Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard McMunn Miskimen. She and Richard were living in Zemmer, Germany near Spangdahlem AFB with their only child, three-year-old Karen. He had joined the Air Force in 1954 and was an F-105 mechanic. He was on his way home from a temporary duty assignment in the States.

Karen and Richard met five years before the tragedy through a happy coincidence as many first meetings occur. She had been out with a girlfriend to see a Pat Boone movie “ April Love.” They stopped at a local restaurant for a soft drink.

AF Staff Sgt Miskimen

AF Staff Sgt Richard Miskimen

There were two airmen in the restaurant from Moody AFB, near their town of Valdosta, Georgia. The airmen tried

to talk to them, but she says, “Of course, we ignored them. We soon left and the airmen got in their car and drove along side of us as we walked. They kept talking and tried to get

us in the car, but we made excuses. This went on for about eight blocks. When we got in sight of my aunt’s house, we decided it was safe to get in the car! They introduced themselves and took us the rest of the way home.”

Karen tells more about their courtship and marriage which, for them, ended in the teeming North Atlantic.

Continue reading

Posted in passengers | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments