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”
Fred Caruso 2012
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
Pvt. Caruso, fresh out of jump school.
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.
As a result of a story about Flying Tiger 923, Caruso became a reporter and photographer, for the Army and Stars and Stripes
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.