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.
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.
She said “Richard and I immediately hit it off. After a whirlwind courtship, we eloped. That was on December 28, 1957. We immediately left for Ohio to see his family. My mother was not very happy with the wedding arrangement.
“I was scared to death of meeting Richard’s very large family. He was next to the last of 16. But they were very kind to me. In late 1958 we were transferred from Moody AFB to Dover AFB in Delaware. In July 1959 our daughter Karen Elizabeth was born. In early 1960 we got orders for Spangdahlem AFB, Germany. We rented an apartment from a German family for a little over a year, then got into base housing. We traveled to Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Andorra, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. We tried not to miss anything. Although I was homesick at first, I eventually learned to love Europe.”
In August of 1962, only a month or so before the crash, Richard got a 30-day temporary duty assignment (TDY) to the States, to a William Tell Gunnery Meet and Air Show at Nellis AFB, Nevada. After his assignment concluded, he visited a brother in California, and surprised his mother and several brothers and sisters in his home town at New Philadelphia, Ohio. He sent a postcard from Ohio to his wife in Germany saying he expected to be home on September 24.
Waiting at home was Dorothy, who was then 23, and their daughter, Karen. She slept in the living room the night of his expected return so she would be sure to hear his knock.
Instead of his knock on the door, she was awakened in the morning by the base chaplain and two other military officers. She was told that the plane had crashed in the stormy North Atlantic, but no one knew about survivors. Twenty four hours later, she was told that Richard’s body had been recovered.
Dorothy said she and his air force acquaintances held a memorial service for Richard in Germany and then she flew back to the States to be closer to relatives.
According to Dorothy, they were due to land at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, but one of the engines on their Military Air Transport (MATS) flight had to be feathered over the Atlantic due to engine problems and they landed in New York instead.
Dorothy said, “We went to my husband’s home in Ohio to await the arrival of his body, and had the funeral about two weeks later. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in New Philadelphia.”
She and her daughter then went back to Dorothy’s home in South Georgia.
“The worst day of my life,” she says, “was when we got off the plane in Valdosta (her home town). It was worse than the funeral. It had only been 28 months since we had left the states for Germany on an adventure. But now it seemed to me as if life was over.
“Up until that time, I had been surrounded by Richard’s family. Now reality set in. I was very depressed for a time, but soon realized I could not give up since I had a young child to raise. At some point I wrote to M/Sgt Peter Foley (the crash survivor who worked for the Stars and Stripes) and his reply gave me some comfort.”
Dorothy was able to move on with life. In 1965 she moved to Miami, Florida and started working for the Social Security Administration. She worked in several Florida offices and also in North Carolina and Georgia, retiring in 1999 after 32 years of service.
She says, “My daughter is smart and hard working, and I have two grandchildren. They both graduated from college and have good jobs. I like to think my husband would be proud how they turned out, and I am thankful for knowing him and his large, wacky, wonderful family.”
Dorothy found our website while browsing the internet. She says, “I had no idea there was a book or any memorials. I would like to hear from others who lost family members.”