Welcome to our memorial site for 2018 . . .

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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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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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New Book About Flying Tiger 923 Anticipated in Late 2018!

The late Capt. Murray’s son-in-law, Eric Lindner, recently signed a book contract with Lyons Press to expand on the history of Flying Tiger 923.

Eric has been close to the subject of the demise of Flying Tiger 923 for
some time as he is married to Capt. Murray’s daughter Ellen Murray. They live very near
Ellen’s brother, John, in Virginia.

Eric has already conducted hundreds of interviews with Flight 923 survivors,
and other involved parties, but he’d love to hear from anyone else who might have some knowledge of or insight into the events of Sept. 23, 1962 and what preceded the events of the disaster and the aftermath.

He will greatly appreciate access to any photos or other memorabilia such as Western Union telegrams and letters, of anyone on-board, or involved in the rescue in any way.  He will copy and return them and credit the owner of the material
in the book.

Please note that materials presented for inclusion in the book must be originals, his publisher says.  Unfortunately copies of copies won’t pass editorial muster, quality wise. However the material itself may provide valuable insights or information.

Please feel free to contact Eric directly, via his private email:

ericlindnerprivate@rcn.com

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