Lt. Col. George Dent: Wife Elizabeth dies on over-crowded life raft

They both made it to the raft. Separated by only six feet, the raft was so packed that they could not see each. When enough people were pulled out of the raft, he found her. By then she was already dead.

Lt. Col. George H. Dent of Fredericksburg, Virginia was playing cribbage with his wife, Elizabeth, in one of the rear isles of Flying Tiger 923. “I was winning the Championship of the North Atlantic,” he recalls. They were returning from leave in Langley, VA, to their home in Germany. They had three children, the youngest, a year-old girl.

Col. Dent remembers seeing the number 2 engine “emitting hunks of carbonized fire, some of them the size of a fist. Then I heard bells. It sounded like the fire warnings on an engine. A few minutes later Number 2 stopped with a thud you could both feel and hear.”

He and his wife were separated in the water but both made it to the raft. On the raft, many of the injured were injured or in shock. He called out to his wife Elizabeth. She was only six feet away but hidden from his view. She answered weakly that she was all right and asked how he was. He replied “fine” and tried to encourage her.

Everyone was sitting on everyone else and it was nearly impossible to move. Some sat in the water with only part of their head and faces held out.

It took more than an hour to get everyone off the raft. When about 20 people had been taken off it, Colonel Dent was finally able to reach his wife. He lifted her up, spoke to her and tried mouth to mouth artificial respiration.” It was too late,” Dent later said. “I don’t know how you know these things, but the moment I turned around and saw here, I knew she was dead.”

Two of the Celerina’s crewmen lifted her body into a hammock which was raised to the deck. The lifeless forms of two servicemen also were lifted to the ship. No one had been aware that these three people had died during our five-hour ordeal on the raft.

Elizabeth’s body was transferred the following day by helicopter to the Canadian Air Craft Carrier Bonaventure.

About Fred Caruso

Survivor of the crash of Flying Tiger 923. at night, at sea, 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland, with 28 deaths and 48 survivors, September 23, 1962.
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5 Responses to Lt. Col. George Dent: Wife Elizabeth dies on over-crowded life raft

  1. Pingback: Willie Smith tells story and makes “Old Soldier” proud | Flying Tiger 923

  2. Russell Smith says:

    This is George Dent’s grandson Russell Smith. I came across this after doing some research on the crash. George never talked about it to me or any of his grandchildren as far as I know. But I know Elizabeth would be proud to know that her three children (Laughlin, Tommy and Kathy) have all grown up to be wonderful people with beautiful families of their own. If anybody wishes to contact me they may do so by e-mailing me at

  3. Leslie dent says:

    I am the granddaughter of George. The youngest of the 3 children was a 1 year old girl. A small error, but none the less, for accuracy sake, she’s the youngest daughter.

  4. I am Kathy, the youngest child. I was 9 months old when my biological mother died. I refer to Elizabeth this way because I have no memories of her. All of my memories are of Shirley – my mother. Anyway, this article has some info that previous articles had slightly different or not at all. Thank you Russell!

  5. Laughlin Dent Smith says:

    I am the oldest daughter of George and Elizabeth Dent. Thank you for the comprehensive reporting of the crash of the aircraft and rescue of the survivors. Small correction, mom and dad were stationed in Langley, Va. They were traveling to Europe to visit Copenhagen. Col. Dent retired in 1969 to Summerville, SC. He died in 2002.

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