This is a reawakening of our Flying Tiger 923 memorial site, some two years since my last posting. It happens to be Thanksgiving Day 2016, November 24, and in large measure because of this memorial website, I can say from the bottom of my heart, “Thank You,” to the hundreds of folks who have contributed to my being here today.
When I say hundreds of folks, I feel I am making an understatement as I have met so many of you since launching “Flying Tiger 923” in 2009. Everyone has been wonderful, including those whom I have met, those whom I have spoken to by phone and those whom I know were distant from the event but feel a part of the disaster. This includes the 1,500 Canadian sailors aboard the silently trailing, protective aircraft carrier, the Bonaventure and several hundred more serving on the five battleships that escorted the carrier.
When I started my personal investigation of the crash some 35 years after September 23, 1962, I knew practically nothing about the event or the people involved. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an aircraft carrier that was following and searching for us! The research resulted in my book, “Born Again Irish,” a story about Flying Tiger 923 and how it drove me into an interesting and diverse life.
When I say how little I knew about what happened is probably the same for most survivors. No one knew much of anything. An airplane crash happening at night during a terrible storm in the North Atlantic at that time in 1962 was simply one of many events dominated by the world-wide drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I thought it was related to the construction of the Berlin Wall and the 880-mile-long “Death Fence” that separated East Germany from the West. Those two global dramas were related as “Cold War Events” that captured the media attention.
After the Flying Tiger crash, the rescue of the survivors occurred in two separate and dramatic phases; the first at Cork, Ireland of only 19 people (which I was lucky to be a part of) and the second at Antwerp, Netherlands for the remainder of the survivors.
Since I was one of the 19 combat paratroopers on board, I was of course first concerned about my Army buddies. I did not know a single non-combat passenger who made up the majority of the survivors. Considering our extremely close physical contact during those long hours in the lone rescue raft, and several days in the Swiss rescue ship, the Celerina, very little social interaction occurred, in part due to the extreme physical and emotional shock we had all undergone. For most survivors, when it was over, it was thankfully over. There had never been a memorial for the event or a reunion prior to our celebrations in Ireland in 2012, 50 years later.
So now, even more years later, I say thank you. Thank you to all of you, even those who didn’t make the flight and those who lost loved ones. All the passengers on Flying Tiger 923 shared a tiny bit of time in human history. It was just a little bit of time in human history, but it was a major factor in our own timelines. I appreciate sharing a bit of it with you and thankful that I am here, at this moment in Eagle, Colorado, to say with heartfelt feelings, “Thank You All,” for being here wherever you are.
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About this memorial website
By Fred Caruso, aka “O’Caruso”
I was there on September 23, 1962, a young paratrooper, headed for Germany and wishing I didn’t have to go. I wanted to stay in the states. I was barely 21. The crash of Flying Tiger 923 was a horror. It has affected my family and me far more, and for many years longer, than I could have ever imagined.
The drama of the crash stretched on for hours and then into days. I was taken from the rescue ship by helicopter three days later to Mercy Hospital in Cork, Ireland, where I claim to have been “born again as an Irishman.” It was my second chance at life, beginning with my rebirth at Mercy, even though I never got to see if there was a maternity ward at that hospital.
The notion of being “Born Again Irish” has driven me my entire life. It led to my ultimately becoming a legal Irishman, nicknamed “O’Caruso.” My wife and I have a home in Glengarriff, West County Cork. I wrote a book entitled “Born Again Irish”” about the experience and that book woke me up to the fact that I hardly knew anything about
the crash, other than what I believe I saw and experienced. I realized that I could hardly remember another person, no faces at all. I could remember very, very few of the details of the crash and aftermath with any degree of accuracy. And even worse, I realized that I couldn’t even expand my mind to accept the details by reading about others. I could read, but I could not see. Others hardly existed. When it came to Flying Tiger 923, it was MY plane crash and mine alone, at least inside my mind.
But after all of these years, I have been waking up. While gathering information for my book and this web site, I have become aware of how many people were involved and how many and who contributed to our survival and recovery. How could I not have known? Why has it taken so long? Was I asleep for the past half century? Maybe I have finally grown up and I am ready to learn all of the facts that I can, all of the little bits and pieces I didn’t see before.
This site is intended to be a commemoration to all: the crew, the rescue teams, those who survived and those who didn’t, and all of the families and friends who prayed, rejoiced or grieved their loss. This is an interactive web site. Readers can comment and contribute photos and information. This is a way of gathering stories and experiences and sharing it with who ever might have an interest.
Please be aware that some of the posts may contradict details in others. This is because people’s recollection of events do not always comprise the whole story. It is human nature. Even newspaper reports contain major inaccuracies. By piecing together as much as possible, we may have a comprehensive view of the event which is much larger than any one of the participant’s view.
Please add your comments. Tell us of your experiences, your memories and your questions. What is on your mind?A fifty-year anniversary is a good reason for taking a new look at this tragic and historic event which, for many, was the most significant event in their lives.
If you have not yet done so, read my book and consider how this event might affect others compared to the way it affected me. This book describes how I was driven to become Irish, which was a lifelong journey, however, the first half of the book delves into the details of the horror of the crash and its immediate aftermath. It is currently out of print. but it is available on Amazon.com.
Great to hear from you, Fred. Thanks for all you have done regarding the crash. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, and keep us posted about what is going on. D. Neisen
Yes, I 2nd that, Dorothy: I am so Thankful to Hear from U, Fred! Happy Thanksgiving to BOTH of U; I’m Thankful that U have brought us all together on flyingtiger923.com, via Born Again Irish:) Thank-U Beyond words, Fred.
Fred, happy Thanksgiving to you both, I think about what you went through a lot. I was on Flying Tiger 923 also, but my story is different. Coming from Germany, getting on in Frankfurt, my husband and then 1 year old baby girl got into this bad storm and the plane was going up and down, made me terrible airsick. We had to emergency land at Gander in New Foundland, were told there was a problem with the plane. We were given blankets to keep warm while we waited for them to repair what ever. Several hours later we took off again on route to Mc Guire Air Force Base. I looked down into the turbulent ice cold water and prayed to please let us make it to my new home 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 and entered the Greyhound Bus to take us to West Virginia where my husband was from to meet his family I left a suitcase sitting behind. When arriving in Logan W. Virginia, sitting in front of the TV we heard an announcer saying that the Flying Tiger 923 arriving from Germany on it’s return trip to Germany crashed into the ocean. Chills went up & down my spine (that was the one you were on as young Pvt.)Well you know the rest of the story. I wished I knew the name of the nice colored lady across from me , she came over and hugged & comforted me and joked that’s why they have these paper bags here. God bless her. The year 1962 when I started my new life here in this country, became a Citizen and always try to contribute in everyway I can to repay, that could have been us – on the bottom of the ocean. So long ago Fred, I know, but never forgotten.
What an incredible story. I would love to use it on the website. Could you send me some personal information such as your phone and where you live and tell me if I can print the story. Thanks so much for your contact. Fred Caruso ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
…WOW!!! ….WHAT A POWERFUL STORY, Rena!!! …this is a previously unknown vantage point in the Condition of Flight 923, ultimately resulting in its subsequent Engine Failure.
Happy Thanksgiving. I am the student from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden that took the only picture of the crashed plane when we flew a year earlier.No other picture was to find on internet. We had another charter round trip to New York also in June 1962 and it could have been the same plane. I have been interested in reading all the stories.
Good to hear from you.. I remember the situation well. I was part of the crew of the Bonaventure at the time. Hope all is well with you and may God Bless.
Kincardine, Ontario, Canada.
Fred, you’ve done an amazing job with this site and on behalf of our family, we thank you for giving so much! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
I remember well. My husband Joe, was flying his 1st flight as aircraft commander and came in contact with the flight that went down and flew above the area for hours until help arrived.
…Lou, wasn’t Captain Lewis from Tuscaloosa, AL?
I was 9 years old in 1962. It was September of 1962. My father was in the USAF. We landed at Prestwick, Scotland, to begin our 3 year tour at Kirknewton A.F.B. I remember how unusual our plane looked, with its big three piece tail, and how scared I was to first board it at McGuire AFB, 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 Fred, and to everyone else aboard on your 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.