Welcome to our memorial site . . .

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Bromore Cliffs Memorial

It was a sunny day at Bromore Cliffs at Ballybunion, Ireland. This is the site of one of the two known memorials for the crash of the Flying Tiger 923, which occurred some 500 west of that point, on September 23, 1962. It was at night, during a vicious North Atlantic storm. Seventy six men, women and children were on board. Approximately 20 of the passengers were newly graduated combat paratroopers headed for their first assignments at bases in western Germany. Forty eight persons survived disaster. Twenty eight died in the ravages of the sea.

Bromore Cliffs Memorial Plaque

Bromore Cliffs Memorial Plaque

Local Bromore Cliffs community leader Mike Flahive created the memorial, totally on his own and on his own property where his cattle graze at the steep edges of the cliffs. The memorial garden is open to the public and attracts dozens of visitors daily, many of whom come from around the world to play golf at the famous Ballybunion golf course.

Views from the Cliffs

 

Flahive was inspired to dig into the details of the crash when at the age of 11, he looked out his bedroom window at the edge of the cliffs to see the giant Canadian aircraft carrier, Bonaventure, stopped no more than a football field distance away at the mouth of the Shannon River estuary. The ship was bringing in some of the dead and injured from the crash. The crash was widely publicized in Ireland and England while being virtually unnoticed by the United States news media.

Seen shaking hands are at left, Fred Caruso, one of the survivors who was evacuated by helicopter at Galley Head to Mercy Hospital in Cork City, Ireland, To the right is monument creator and memorial garden benefactor, Mike Flahive. The two were featured in a TV documentary entitled “Wild Atlantic Way” produced by well-known and popular RTE broadcaster, John Creedon.

Three visitors shown in the photo are Cowboy Hugh Broadus a cattle rancher from Colstrip, Montana; Fred Caruso of Eagle, Colorado and Glengarriff, County Cork, Ireland, and Margaret Ellen Caruso, his wife and sister of the Cowboy. The three were treated to a night in the cozy family cottage on the cliffs, from which Flahive saw the Canadian Aircraft Carrier on September 25, 1962. The Bromore Memorial site commemorates several shipwrecks and air crashes along the “Wild Atlantic Way” and features an original World War II observation sentry post. The site is open to the public daily.

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Flying Tiger Flight 923 Makes it to the World-wide Encyclopedia Wikipedia

It was always something of a mystery and a disappointment to me (the author of this article), NOT to find such an important historical event listed in Wikipedia, the free, universal, world-wide Encyclopedia. The North America version of Wikipedia (in English) contains a number of entries about the Flying Tiger Line and articles on historic events of the air line, such as its crashes.

So I am very happy to report now that details of the tragic Flight 923 have finally made it to the pages of Wikipedia. The good news is that it is there for the world to see more easily, but the bad news is that it is currently only viewable in the German version in the German language!

The article is detailed and accurate as you would expect in an encyclopedia listing. Errors in spelling and grammar are probably due to non-human electronic translations. Two of the major contributors to the article are friends and published contributors to this Flying Tiger 923 Memorial web-blog. Peter W. Frey is a special-interest, investigative reporter and radio announcer with the German region Swiss Public Radio network. Frey flew to Ireland in 2012 to interview me and an important rescuer, Pierre Andre Raymond. Another contributor is Georg Stockli. He was the radio operator on the MS Celerina the night of the crash.

Read about both men on this website by clicking these links: Peter Frey and Georg Stockli.

Our thanks to Karen Eldred-Steffan for bringing this article to our attention. Karen lives in Germany, which is why she was able to connect with the article over the internet. In Germany the search engines automatically default to the German version of Wikipedia.*

Karen is the daughter of then retired Capt. Robert Eldred and Mrs. Edna Eldred, both of whom were passengers on the fateful night of September 23, 1962. Capt. Eldred survived to tell the story, but his wife tragically perished in the crash. Karen was 17 at the time. You can read Captain Eldred’s story on this site by clicking the link on his name.

Karen has been sending items for use in this site during the past year, much of which had been collected and saved by her father who has since passed away. We very much appreciate her commitment to this memorial.

Here is a link to the German Wikipedia entry:

https://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Flying-Tiger-lIine-Flug_923&oldid=168502501

Most search engines have a translation function built-in, but if the article pops up in German, it can be translated by any of a number of on-line translation programs. We will attempt during the coming year to get the article listed in the English master edition of Wikipedia.

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* [The German Wikipedia edition] Founded in March 2001, it is the second-oldest, after the English Wikipedia, and with 2,251,582 articles, at present (2017) the fourth-largest edition of Wikipedia by number of articles, behind the English Wikipedia and the heavy bot-generated Swedish Wikipedia[1] and Cebuano Wikipedia.[2][3][4] It has the second-largest number of edits and over 260,000 disambiguation pages.[5] On 7 November 2011, it became the second edition of Wikipedia, after the English edition, to exceed 100 million page edits. [Note: This paragraph was taken directly from the German Wikipedia explanation of itself.]

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Former Aer Lingus Pilot Recalls Flying Tiger Ditching

DITCHING IN THE ATLANTIC

by Charlie Coughlan, Galley Head, Ireland

The successful ditching of US Airlines flight 1549 into the Hudson River reminded me of a much more difficult ditching that happened near Ireland in 1962. Whilst I don’t wish to take anything away from the terrific job done by Sully Sullenberger, the pilot of US 1549, he landed in daylight, close to shore, in calm water. The ditching I’m about to describe took place out in the Atlantic, at night, and with strong winds blowing.

My first job in Aer Lingus was as a temporary traffic clerk. I started in Cork airport on the fourth of June 1962, my salary was the princely sum of £6 10s a week or €8.23. €8.23 was a 67% increase on what I was being paid by John Atkins and Sons where I was on a salary of 16 guineas a month. Cork airport had opened on the 16th of October 1961.

On September 23rd 1962 I was standing on the ramp at Cork airport when the survivors of the ditching of flight 923 were landed by Royal Air Force helicopters. I still remember clearly my outrage at the performance of the press who had been allowed onto the ramp. A priest who was waiting to comfort the injured was rudely swept aside as the members of the press rushed towards the helicopters.

Flight 923 was a Lockheed 1049H Super Constellation, registration N6923C, belonging to Flying Tiger Airlines. The aircraft was en route from Gander to Frankfurt on an American military air transport service charter. The flight had originated at McGuire air force base in New Jersey and was carrying 70 passengers, mostly United States service personnel and 20 women and children from their families. In the cockpit were Captain John Murray, First Officer Robert Parker, Flight Engineer James Garrett and the navigator Sam Nicholson. There were four cabin crew looking after the passengers. The flight left Gander at 17:10 and was cleared to Frankfurt at 11,000 feet with an estimated flight time of 9 hours 20 minutes. At 19:35 the flight requested to climb to 13,000 feet due to light icing. At 19:50 the flight requested further climb to 21,000 feet as they were still experiencing icing.

Fire in Engine Number Three

Within minutes of levelling off at 21,000 feet the number three engine fire warning activated. The crew carried out the engine fire drill and shut down number three engine. The senior stewardess, Elizabeth Sims, reported that the fire was visible from the cabin. The flight then requested descent to 9,000 feet, the cruising altitude on three engines for their weight. After carrying out the emergency drill for an engine fire, which were memory items, the captain instructed the flight engineer to carry out the clean up items which are read from the emergency checklist. While doing this, the flight engineer inadvertently shut down number one engine, the propeller of which immediately started to overspeed. It should have been feathered before the fuel was shut off. The crew then applied max continuous power on engines two and four and started to descend slowly to 5,000 feet which was the maximum height on two engines. Number one engine would not restart despite numerous attempts to do so. Captain Murray considered diverting to Keflavic in Iceland but the weather there was bad with winds gusting up to 70mph. The flight continued on towards Shannon for another twenty minutes when the fire warning on number two engine activated but when the throttle was pulled back the fire warning stopped. It was now 21:15.

Captain Murray realised that he couldn’t maintain his altitude so he altered course towards weather ship Juliet which was about 200 miles off the Irish coast at 52 North 20 West. Within minutes the aircraft had descended to 3000 feet and was limping along at 150 knots when number two engine stopped. “Ladies and gentlemen it looks like we’re going to have to ditch,” Captain Murray announced over the public address system. By this time two other aircraft had been diverted to escort the crippled aircraft and had it in sight. The crew had already reviewed the ditching procedure in the flight manual and Elizabeth Sims had got the passengers to put on their lifejackets and had gone through the ditching procedure step-by-step.

Violent Impact

Fred Caruso, one of the passengers, takes up the story: “WHAM!! More like WHOP!! We hit a mountain of water, belly first. My seat held fast but some broke off. The hull split open and a wing snapped off. Someone flew clear over my head. The sudden sensation of icy water on my stocking feet terrified me! Horror! Frigid, frightening horror!”

Fred escaped through the over-wing window exit. Fifty one people made it into the 25 man life raft and 48 survived, a miracle if ever there was one. Even though all five life rafts were recovered from the sea, the survivors only found one and this due to the heroism of the navigator Sam Nicholson. After Sam threw the only life raft that was inside the aircraft into the sea (the others were in the wings), the lanyard attaching it broke. Sam dived into the sea and managed to retrieve it

The night was a long, dramatic deliverance for those who lived. There were six frigid and dizzying hours in a tiny, over-crowded life raft that by fate had inflated upside down so the rescue lights were invisible from above. The wind blew the life raft some 22 miles from the point of impact to the point where the survivors were picked up by the Swiss freighter Celerina. Luckily a Canadian aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, was also in the area and used its helicopters to airlift the seriously injured from the Celerina to the carrier for treatment and later to a military hospital in England.

Caruso recalls: “The landscape! The seascape! The sunshine! The people! Even the roar and the rattle of the helicopter! They were all glorious that day, not just pretty or beautiful. It was breath-taking! Overwhelming! Glorious! My first view of Ireland! The weather broke when we got closer to land. The waters calmed and the sun came out. We had manoeuvred to the south of Ireland, some 16 miles southwest of Cork City, near the Galley Head. RAF helicopters evacuated 17 of us to the Mercy Hospital.

“How beautiful it was that day! The helicopter flew at about five hundred feet above the ground. That’s almost low enough to see the look on peoples’ faces. It seemed that the glorious green of the countryside extended out into the ocean, for at least half a mile, as if it were reaching out to greet us. That finger of water was emerald green. An Irish green welcoming carpet appeared. Beautiful!”

Probable Cause of Crash

The Civil Aeronautics Board found that “the probable cause of the accident was the failure of two of the aircraft’s four engines and the improper action of the flight engineer which disabled a third engine, thereby necessitating a ditching at sea. Under the circumstances of darkness, weather and high seas which prevailed in the North Atlantic at the time of the ditching the survival of 48 occupants of the aircraft was miraculous.” The report went on to say: “Apart from the major error by the flight engineer, there was a lack of proper crew training which led to confusion in regard to the position passengers should adopt before ditching and the fact that no final ‘brace yourselves’ instruction was given by the captain.”  They found “that the captain was not aware that there was a lever in the cockpit which would release some of the rafts installed in the wings. Another serious flaw in the preparations for ditching was the failure of the over-wing exit panels. Performance and testimony by surviving crew members indicated a lack or a low degree of proficiency having been gained from the training programme designed to meet emergencies such as were encountered by the flight.”

Despite the fact that the Flying Tiger manual and the US Coast Guard recommend ditching parallel to the swell, Captain Murray decided to ditch into the swell. This could easily have caused the immediate destruction of the aircraft. But Captain Murray decided that the interval between swells based on the latest forecasts would give him a better chance of carrying out the ditching successfully

The procedure he used was warned against in the Flying Tiger manual. The enquiry noted that the considerable impact caused by landing into the swell caused the wing to break off depriving the passengers of one life raft and also caused several rows of seats to fail. Despite this the board made no criticism of Captain Murray or any other members of the crew.

Captain Murray continued his flying career with Flying Tiger and was one of the first captains to be checked out on the new DC8 63 jets, an aircraft type I flew myself for several years. Seven years after he ditched in the Atlantic he was on a night stop on Wake Island, west of Honolulu, and was drowned while swimming in a calm sea. He was 51.

Fred Caruso was so delighted to survive that he changed his name to O’Caruso, became an Irish citizen, and bought a house in Glengarriff.

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Editors notes: Charlie Coughlan’s career with Aer Lingus helped keep his interest in the Flying Tiger ditching. In fact, he has been a good friend of the Irish survivor effort since day one. He was on the ramp at the new Cork Airport at the time the 17 most seriously injured were being ferried from the ship Celerina by helicopter for medical treatment at Cork hospitals. He says he was personally distressed with the dozens of news reporters on the tarmac who gave little room to the emergency caregivers as they attempted to tend to the injured.

Charlie became a pilot by beginning his pilot training as soon as possible. To the left he stands with one of his early instructors with their training aircraft.

He says that Captain Murray became one of the early pilots to be checked out on the new DC8-63 jet that replaced the four engine piston driven trans-Atlantic passenger planes. Charlie checked out himself on the DC8-63 and spent the rest of his career flying jets for Aer Lingus. Shown here he stands with his parents, all holding a ceremonial bottle of wine at the inaugural flight of a new route.

As a career pilot, he carried his love of aircraft and his curiosity everywhere, including to the beach. His home is near the Galley Head light house on the Atlantic coast. He and a friend, Jane Melia, discovered on May 5, 2006, one of two vertical tail fins from an F-14 Tomcat, known then as the “Grim Reaper,” never seen in Europe. It had crashed off the coast of Florida some 4,900 miles east across the sea. The heavy tail fin had drifted along the Atlantic gyre to Long Strand near Galley Head. Shown here are that artifact where it had drifted up on the shore and the full length of the Grim Reaper.

Charlie says “The piece that we found had the number 36 on it and it turns out that an

engine on this aircraft blew up during a training mission off Florida on October 3rd 2002. The two crew ejected safely and were recovered. The tail fin must have separated

when the engine blew up and ended up floating over 4,900 miles to the Long Strand, taking 3½ years to do so. Unbelievable but true.”

 

 

 

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Friendship Postcard Reaches its Target After 55 years in Safekeeping

Paul Stewart was a young Army private from Ardmore, Oklahoma and a very recent graduate of parachute training program on the night of September 23, 1962, the date of the fatal mid-sea ditching of the Flying Tiger 923. He was one of the lucky 48 survivors of the 78 passengers and crew who went down with the aircraft that night.

Paul tells his own story best, so I will do  my best to quote him:

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Recently I found several items related to FT923.

“My Dad kept a small picture box, which went to my sister when he died and then to my niece when my sister passed. It was shared with me only a couple of months ago.

“The find that was a real shocker was a post card from the Celerina’s electrician, Marcus Janka, dated March 18, 1963. You know that I was in your unit at that time and had never seen the message.

“While on the ship (the Celerina), I stayed in his cabin and we would visit 1 to 2 hours a day until we docked in Antwerp, Belgium. When I left, I wrote my name and home address, and I never saw this card for more than 55 years. Marcus told me that on the night of the rescue, he operated the huge ”Search Light,” or “Spot Light,” that stayed on the raft for hours and hours. We could never thank that crew enough.”

[Editor’s Note: The postcard, which was mailed from New Orleans, is shown front and back. It reads, “Hallo Paul, We was in Calcutta and nowe in New Orleans. I hope you are well. In three months I am at home. /s/ Markus Janka, RoutgenStr. 30, Zurich 5, Schueiz”]Another item from hidden picture box is a copy of a telegram to Henry Stewart, his father, dated September 25, 1962, from a Major General J.C. Lambert, stating that his son had been rescued. That was the sum total of contacts from the Army. Paul says that the only other phone calls or contacts about FT923 came from the press.

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The Numbers: 923 — 923

Two numbers that everyone familiar with the Flying Tiger crash should remember are “923” and “923.” The first number 923 refers to the airplane, a Lockheed four engine Super Constellation, “Flying Tiger 923.” The second number refers to the date of the crash, September 23. The year was 1962. It was a Sunday and the cold war was heating up over the Cuban Missle Crisis. For those who died that night, it was a tragic and final end.  For the 48 who lived, Captain Murray performed a miracle.

This year on 9/23 it will be our 56th anniversary, which places the disaster some 20,454 days in the past. For the survivors who still live today, those 20,454 days are all extra days alive on this planet, thanks to Captain John Murray.

Former US Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry recently published a book, “Every Day Extra.” His book is a memoir reviewing his entire life with every day being a gift from the beginning. I have taken a bit of literary license in using a part of his book’s title to claim that “every day of my life since 923/62 has been an extra day” and I am sure all others feel the same way. Even those who have already passed on were gifted with extra days.

For sure, not every one of those extra days were rollicking happy or dramatically successful, but there always seemed to be another extra day to start over again. I have decided to simply forget the not-so-good days, to toss them away, so-to-speak. I am keeping my mind on the majority of good ones with all of the good cheer and many triumphs big and small. After all, every day is in fact extra.

As you read through the pages in this web-site (more than 110 separate articles, which are probably 250 pages of book text), you can’t leave without feeling that a lot of others besides Captain Murray deserve thanks for those extra days also. In fact, far more than a thousand persons were involved with the rescue effort. To start with just a few:

The Air Force C-118 Globe Master captained by Joseph K. Lewis, 25, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was taking American military personnel from Prestwick, Scotland, to the US, by way of Harmon, Newfoundland. It was Captain Lewis’ first flight as captain when he heard the distress message.

For nearly five hours, the crew of the Air Force Globe Master were the only “eyes and ears” for the rescue effort following the ditching. After so many hours of circling, the aircraft was running low on fuel and was forced to return back to Scotland. Luckily, other aircraft had flown to the crash site and were able to take over the job of marking the location of the lone life raft.

Without the Swiss Rescue Ship, the Celerina, and its dedicated Captain and crew of 45 plus, we may never have been rescued. There were very few ships in that region of the cold Atlantic. If the 51 of us crammed into the tiny rubber raft had eventually been recovered, everyone would have most likely been found dead, expired of hypothermia. Three died on the life raft as it was. Only 48 of us made it to safety after six hours of bobbing and spinning in the frigid seas.

One especially important person to the Flying Tiger story was a 19-year-old Swiss lad who was on board the Celerina as a student observer. His name is Pierre-Andre Reymond. His father wanted him to record his travels and gave him a Brownie 8mm film camera for that purpose. Pierre-Andre just happened to take his camera on deck the day of the crash and filmed the raging seas. The three minute film is posted in several places on this site and as of this date more than 2,800 persons have viewed the video. Click here to see the raging seas some 12 hours before the ditching, Flying Tiger 923 and Raging North Atlantic   (Note: the video says September 22 due to the fact that 12 hours were enough to cause a date change.)

Pierre-Andre somehow found me very early in my research. He wrote several valuable stories for this web-site and was instrumental from the beginning in arranging and promoting the memorial at Galley Head in 2012, including arranging for the Swiss Ambassador to Ireland on short notice to speak at our ceremony as a special guest.

Rescue team members at Cork Airport numbered in the hundreds. Of special note is our friend Gary Ahern of Dublin who was involved in planning the memorial.

Gary Ahern was on the very first four-person emergency rescue team at the new Cork airport. That team played an important role in the logistics of moving the injured from the rescue helicopters to the ambulances that delivered them to the hospitals. All four original members of that team participated in our memorial program 50 years later at Galley Head.

The virtually unknown crews of the US “weather ships” placed across the Atlantic to keep aircraft posted on weather conditions were among the first to hear the calls for help. Several were within communications distance of our aircraft to relay distress signals.

And more than 1,500 personnel of the Canadian aircraft carrier, Bonaventure, and her four escort destroyers, that diverted from their course to follow us to safety. The Bonaventure transported recovered bodies to Shannon Airport and provided emergency medical supplies to the Celerina,

And the list goes on and on.

I urge everyone to browse through our “drop-down” directory above, if you have not already done so, to get a feel for the magnitude of “923”. Our web-site counter tells us that we have had more than 92,100 visits, which translates into thousands if individual visitors, from nearly every country in the world.

I am proud that so many have had the opportunity to learn so much about a nearly invisible incident of cold-war September 1962. This web-site is a dedicated memorial to honor everyone.

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Posted in flight crew, MEMORIALS, passengers, rescue teams | 7 Comments

More than 90,500 views!

Readers from around the world have logged in more than 90,500 times to read about the virtually unknown story of Flying Tiger Flight 923, which crashed into the raging North Atlantic on the night of September 23, 1962. The disaster was supposed to be a routine water “ditching” operation, if such a bizarre event could ever be routine. It ended up as one violent, gigantic, ear-shattering slap into the dark, icy cold, wind-swept water. The thunderous impact tore off a wing, split open the hull, and sank the aircraft within about seven minutes. There were 76 men, women and children aboard. Twenty eight died, some instantly, and 48 miraculously survived as a result of a fortunate, unanticipated, multi-national rescue effort over the next three days.

More than 50 years later, the story remains relatively unknown, and many questions go without answers.

This website provides most of the details of the crash as remembered by the survivors, rescuers and those left behind told in approximately 110 separate stories accessible through the drop-down menu on the opening page. Of those who are aware of the incident, many years have passed, but not the memories and mental and physical impacts. These stories re-create much of the environment, the heroic efforts and tragedies of the night of September 23, 1962.

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Fred Caruso, the author of this article and manager and editor of this Flying Tiger 923

Caruso

Fred Caruso

website, is professionally a writer, journalist and public speaker. His book Born Again Irish, published in 2007, has been recognized as the first total description of the plane crash and is widely acclaimed internationally. He is currently retired from a distinguished career in managing state, national and international professional societies and trade associations. He is a resident of Eagle, Colorado and is a part-time resident of Glengarriff in West Cork, Ireland. He and his wife Ellen are both naturalized Irish citizens, which he claims is a positive result of the Flying Tiger crash.

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About this site . . . an update

This is a memorial to to all of those who lived through the crash, all of those who perished and to the hundreds of others who gave their time and skills in locating and rescuing the survivors.

We are speaking of the little-known story of the emergency ditching of Flying Tiger Flight 923, which occured in the dark of night during a raging storm in the cold North Atlantic Ocean. Seventy six persons were aboard. Twenty eight passengers and crew (including a mother and her two children) perished, while an unbelievable 48 survived the crash and three-day storm. Happening just three weeks before the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during the most volatile days of the Cold War, there was never an official memorial and barely an acknowledgement of the Flying Tiger 923 disaster! As a result, very few people even heard about it at the time.

We are proud to say that some 111 stories are posted here and are indexed in the masthead above. As you explore the subjects, be sure to scroll all of the way down the list, being especially alert to the articles that may appear on the right when scrolling on the left.

Now, more than 50 years later, you can view the entire drama. Welcome to our excusive club! Viewers like you are raising Flying Tiger 923 from the darkness of Cold War history to a true present-day reality.

We look forward to your comments.

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Ahern Recalls Cold War Ditching of Flying Tiger 923

Cold War Casualties

by Garry Ahern, Dublin Ireland

    On a late-September Sunday afternoon, I was a member of a small crowd gathered at Galley Head Lighthouse in West Cork. We were there for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate an air-sea rescue operation, following the ditching of an airliner 500 miles off-shore, on another September day. Fifty years earlier, four of us now present had been focused on the sombre drama, unaware of each other, in our then young, separate, lives.

It’s just a few years ago now since the landing of an airliner on the Hudson River, New York, made headlines. In a successful landing on water, a rarity in itself, rescue craft sped to the scene and all 155 aboard were brought to safety. The pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, was rightly acclaimed for his exceptional skill and coolness under pressure. The subsequent vindication of the pilot has been dramatised in the film ‘Sully’, in which the lead role is played by Tom Hanks.

It was very different in 1962, when a Lockheed Super-Constellation, the premier airliner of its day, ditched at night in the Atlantic, in twenty-foot waves, far from immediate help. In a world then in the the frigid grip of Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis was only a month away. Tension was high also in Berlin, with its new and infamous wall. American troop-levels in Germany were being boosted. At McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, that Sunday, seventy-six boarded Flight 923 for Frankfurt.

Aboard were military personnel and some civilians, totalling seventy-six, including crew. Among the newly-trained paratroopers was twenty-year-old Private Fred Caruso.

Having re-fuelled at Gander, Newfoundland, another re-fuelling stop was due that night at Shannon Airport. In mid-flight, several mishaps conspired. A fire in one engine was followed by the loss of a second, through an error by the Flight Engineer. Fred Caruso began to write a ‘thank you and farewell’ letter to his parents back home, yet fearing it would never reach them. When a third engine failed, ditching became a certainty, sudden death a probability.

With skill which was later widely praised, the captain, in pitch darkness, brought the big Super-Constellation down on the water. For a time it floated, facilitating evacuation. However, on landing, the starboard wing had sheared off, with fatal consequences for many seated on that side

One life-raft, designed to hold twenty-five, remained. Almost fifty people clawed their way onto the raft, among them Private Caruso and the pilot, Captain Murray, who was last to leave the sinking plane.

As the rubber raft drifted in the dark, a huge multi-national rescue operation got under way, prompted by earlier distress signals. On Monday morning, those on the raft were lifted aboard a merchant ship en-route from Canada to Antwerp. This was the Swiss-registered ‘Celerina’, which had taken its name from a village in that country.

On Tuesday, the ship heaved to, off the Cork coast, awaiting two R.A.F. helicopters from Cornwall, so that fourteen of the worst-injured could be hospitalised.

On the ‘Celerina’, Caruso, wrapped in blankets, barely knew where he was- just that he was now safe.

Elsewhere on board, in addition to his normal duties, Pierre André, a nineteen-year-old Swiss deckhand, was busy coping with the shivering, traumatised, newcomers, and identifying the small number no longer alive.

Nearby was a fishing-trawler, commissioned by reporters and photographers to get as near as possible to the action. On the trawler, Paddy, part of the crew, was getting some pictures himself. I was at Cork Airport, fifty miles from Galley Head, where, on arrival, we would help transfer stretchers from incoming helicopters to waiting ambulances.

A lifetime later, the four of us met together for the first time, acquainting, recalling, reminiscing, comparing. A memorial of some kind was thought fit, action followed thought, and the site was chosen.

On the appointed day, precisely fifty years after the original event, we assembled in the shade of ancient Galley Head Lighthouse. Dignitaries were introduced, speeches were made, a poem composed for the occasion was read. With the flags of Ireland, Switzerland, the United States, and the Irish Lighthouse Service flying in the fresh Atlantic breeze, the Swiss Ambassador unveiled the plaque. Simply, it commemorated those twenty-eight lost on that September night in 1962, and also, the forty-eight who survived.

Then, we dispersed, to again occupy our separate worlds, Fred to Colorado, Pierre André to Switzerland, Paddy and I to Dublin. Flags were lowered and dusk descended. The automated lighthouse commenced its nightly flashes, sending welcome and warning to all who approach this coast.

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Garry Ahern has contributed to this site as well as participating in the actual rescue effort in 1962. All readers are encouraged to read (or re-read) his memorial poem, Ode to Big Bird.  Simply click on the link. Read the poem and biographical information on this important participant in the rescue of survivors in Ireland.

 

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Others Have Experienced Flying Tiger #923

Other readers who were not directly involved in the fatal crash of September 23, have experienced Flying Tiger Lines. All of them, of course, had the experience of flying and landing safely**.

Following are reports of flights on the same aircraft over basically the same route. These are stories told by real life passengers in their own words:

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From Jan Bonner…

It was September of 1962. I was 9 years old. My father was in the USAF. We started our trip at McGuire AFB and landed at Prestwick, Scotland, to begin my father’s three-year assignment at Kirknewton AFB. I remember, even at that early age, how unusual our plane looked, with its big three piece tail, and how scared I was to first board it at McGuire and how relieved I was to get off of that plane in Scotland.

It was the Flying Tiger 923! How close we came to being part of a disastrous event. My heart goes out to everyone aboard that ill-fated flight. Today is the first time I have read about what actually happened those many years ago. I hope you have had a good life sir. Bless you always.

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From Rena Shepherd, 11/24/16…

I was on Flying Tiger 923 also, in 1962, but my story is different. Coming from Germany, getting on in Frankfurt, my husband and I and our then one-year-old-baby-girl were traveling together. We got into a very bad storm over the ocean and the plane was bouncing, going up and down and made me terribly airsick. We had to emergency land at Gander in Newfoundland, where we were told there was a problem with the plane. We were given blankets to keep warm while we waited for them to repair whatever it was. Several hours later we took off again en route to McGuire Air Force Base.

I looked down into the turbulent, ice-cold water and prayed to please let us make it to my new home in America. We made it by hook or by crook. It was the worst flight I have ever been on. Still airsick when we got off the plane, we made our way to the Greyhound Bus to take us to West Virginia where my husband was from and to meet his family. In the excitement of the horrible flight, I left a suitcase sitting behind. It eventually caught up with me.

Soon after arriving in Logan, West Virginia, while sitting in front of the TV, we heard an announcer saying that the Flying Tiger 923 on which we had just arrived from Germany that very day, was all ready on its return trip to Germany. That plane had crashed into the ocean. Chills went up & down my spine (that was the one you were on as a young Private.)

Well you know the rest of the story. I wished I knew the name of the nice lady across from me. She came over and hugged and comforted me and joked about my sickness. She said, “That’s why they have these paper bags here.” God bless her.

The year 1962 was when I started my new life in this country. I became a U.S. Citizen and always try to contribute in every way I can to repay what I have gotten from this country. I can’t help but think that I could have been on the bottom of the ocean. It was so long ago Fred, I know, but it never will be forgotten.

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A young fellow flew to Europe with his family on a Flying Tiger Super Constellation chartered by the Military Air Transport System (MATS).  He is certain is was the very same plane featured in this site, Flying Tiger #923.  Here is his story:

From Paul Feldman, posted  July 18, 2013

I was 5 years old flying from McGuire to Paris in 1962 on this very plane. My father was a sergeant in the Air Force, being transferred to Chalmount AFB. I remember several things about the flight.

  1. We stopped in Newfoundland 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 shut down. I distinctly remember me and my brothers saying something to my father. To assure us, he told us something which was not true. He said “the pilot always shuts down engines when landing.”
  4. I remember my father telling us a short time later the plane crashed on a similar 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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Below, a photo of  Flying Tiger#923, courtesy of a Swedish friend, Ragnor Domstead, who was an engineering student at the time and was responsible for chartering the aircraft for a trip he took with his engineering class in June 1961.

N6923C Gothenburg, Sweden

Super Constellation #N6923C – Photo by Ragnor Domstad, June 1961, on the tarmac of Gothenburg (Sweden) Torslanda airport.Comments by Ragnar Domstad, July 18, 2012

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Comments by Ragnar Domstad, posted July 18, 2012

I am the photographer of the N6923C, Flying Tiger 923, that you see here. As Peter Frey (a freelance journalist) 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 refueling at Shannon, Ireland, we continued our 1962 journey, but had to land at Gander, Newfoundland to wait out the weather. The whole Eastern seaboard was closed due to fog. Somewhat delayed, we arrived at Idlewild.

As our study tour was a success, I was asked to arrange some more tours the following years. We had another Super Connie chartered in 1962 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 the Flying Tiger Line was open to passengers from the US to Europe in the beginning of the summer and vice versa at the end of the summer. They also 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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**(Foot note: The number “923” does not identify the flight route. The number “923” designates the last three digits of the aircraft’s registration number as it comes off the assembly line. This is why someone could say they flew Flying Tiger 923 in a totally different part of the world. The fact that it flew (and crashed) on September 23 (or 9/23) was simply a coincidence.  

Please visit  “Unlucky Year for Flying Tigers”    for more detail on aircraft identification.

Also, regarding Flight 923 survivor Art Gilbreth’s suggestion to avoid any flight with a flight number matching the day’s date may well be worth keeping in mind. In his words, “I’m sure everyone noticed, but just incase you didn’t, Flight # 923 took off on Sept (9) 23! I don’t even get close to a plane that has the same flight number as the date.”

See his story on this site. And while studying the numerical identification of aircraft, take note of the origin and purpose of this reference.)

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81,814 Views Give Meaning to FT923

 

Galley Head Plaque

Dedicated 23 September 2012.

Memories . . .
Readers have asked why the mid-Atlantic ditching of Flying Tiger 923 on Sept. 23, 1962, is virtually unknown? Publicity at the time of the crash was very minimal and what there was disappeared very quickly. So little is known about the crash that the story, as a simple matter of “historic fact,” just recently made it to the pages of the online encyclopedia “Wikipedia.” Just about anything in the world makes it to that site! In this case, it only took 50 years.

I am happy to say that this site has given a degree of meaning and recognition to the event. As of Memorial Day 2017, this site has clocked a total of 81,814 views from throughout the world. The site has some 98 posts and 11 special pages, and a total of 109 separate stories.

Galley Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse on September 23, 2012, showing four flags: Irish for the Irish role in the Fling Tiger 923 rescue effort, the official flag of Commissioners of Irish Lights, US flag for those on the aircraft, and Swiss, for the Celerina rescue.

Why did the ditching get so little attention? Because the Army did not want attention, especially to the small contingent brand new combat paratroopers on board.

The ditching occurred at the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis in September of 1962.The American and Soviet Union leaders were hurling threats of the use of nuclear weapons if either did not get their way. That also happened to be an especially tense period in the “Cold War” with the Soviets building an 850-mile fence between the East and West.

Bromore Cliffs Memorial Plaque

Bromore Cliffs Memorial Plaque

The details are pretty complicated and were highly classified at the time. The Army worked hard at keeping publicity to a minimum, especially about its quietly shipping combat troopers over to Frankfurt on planes usually reserved to transport military families and career military personnel. The surviving combat troops were not provided post medical leaves, except in very rare cases, got “free” uniform and clothing replacement and a small amount of pocket change. The combat troops who did not survive were basically forgotten. There was no official memorial or ceremony commemorating the disaster. None, not anywhere!

Today the Flying Tiger 923 disaster is on the historic map, but it took more than 50 years to get it there. This is due to the interest and loyalty of followers of this blog site as demonstrated by 81,814 views from around the world. While there are no “official” memorials, we can report that in the Republic of Ireland, there is now a small memorial plaque at the Galley Head lighthouse and another small, but beautiful memorial on the Bromore Cliffs near Ballybunion golf course. These were placed by private citizens unrelated to the Army.

To learn more about these private memorials, follow these links:

https://flyingtiger923.com/galley-head-lighthouse-memorial/
https://flyingtiger923.com/2013/06/18/memorial-dedicated-at-browmore-cliffs/
https://flyingtiger923.com/2012/09/10/events-commemorate-fifty-years/

If you have not yet explored this site, please be sure to do so. All 109 stories are accessible by clicking on the categories posted under the masthead above.

 

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