Every tragedy has its unusual or quirky circumstances. Some are very, very sad. Others are almost humorous. Most would be nearly impossible to imagine in advance.
Art Gilbreth Felt the Flight Number May Spell Trouble
Art Gilbreth was an Army private, a new paratrooper, who before boarding noticed the relationship between the Flight Number “923” and the flight date of September 23 (9/23). After the crash he made a resolution: he will never again board a plane when the flight number is the same as the date. And to this date, as far as we know, he has stayed true to his resolution.
The Insurance Dilemma
A few days after rescue, while the injured troops attempted to heal in their hospital beds, insurance adjusters were busy trying make settlements to help cover losses. They figured that, in their minds, $200 was more than enough compensation, to cover lost uniforms and so forth. Several felt very strongly that those soldiers could have purchased “flight insurance” before the flight, couldn’t they? Wouldn’t they? If they had, they wouldn’t need a large insurance settlement to make things good. It was their fault for not buying a little insurance at the airport, wouldn’t it be?
Gilbreth Made His Choice
In real life it didn’t always happen that way. Standing before two vending machines at the McGuire Air Force Base, just before departure, Gilbreth remembers:
“After not being able to go to a bank between leaving Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and boarding Flight #923 in Newark, New Jersey, I stood between the two vending machines. One offered flight insurance for as little as 25 cents and the other offered cigarettes for 25 cents. I reached into my pocket and found a quarter, the only change I had. In fact it was the only money I had, having not being able to go to a bank. Guess which one I chose?”
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Raul Acevedo had injuries in his legs, right ankle, right hip, neck and back. He was one of the new paratroopers evacuated from the rescue ship at Galley Head and flown to Cork City for basic hospital treatment. He was later taken to an Air Force Hospital in England where he spent several weeks of intensive treatment. Eventually, he was discharged and sent on to his assignment in Germany. You can see his full story by clicking here.
Raul Acevedo Has Difficulty Getting Attention
His parents were not in the United States at the time of the crash, but were instead at their home in Mexico. They did not even know that he was drafted into the Army. It was a shock to them to hear of the Flying Tiger ditching and his hospitalization through a friend who sent them a story that appeared in the LA Times front page. His father passed out with the news when he was able to contact them by phone. He felt he had to see them to prove that he was still in good condition.
Following the Chain of Command
He took the traditional channels to seek permission for getting a special leave, but felt he was getting no where. Finally, he had an idea, to write to the commander in chief, John F. Kennedy. (The story mentioned above details the very careful and effective process.)
He sent his certified letter off and had to wait. A few months went by and an officer from higher command came looking for him. He said “”you have special orders and money to go to Mexico for 31 days.”
His home base officers were surprised and somewhat alarmed, since all he had to do was ask them. When he reminded them of the number of times he had asked, they understood that he was genuinely concerned, he had tried the chain of command several times and really needed to report to his family.
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Flight Attendant Finds a Real Challenge with Last Flight
This was to be Carol Gould Hansen’s last flight as a stewardess. In fact, she hadn’t even planned on the trip at all. She took the flight as a back-up for a colleague. She couldn’t say no to a friend in need. Carol had planned to stay at home to work on her upcoming wedding.
Carol kept her cool throughout the entire preparation for ditching, offering kind and comforting words for everyone. She had never experienced a water landing before, but she was a professional and knew the exercise. She assured everyone that they would make it safely.
Even after the extremely violent crash, she was immediately helpful to every survivor within her reach. She treated several of the injured on the rocking and pitching raft, even though no first aid kit was available. The lone kit intended for use was totally out of reach, zipped in a safety pocket under the upside down raft.
Bringing Calm With Singing
Carol led a group in song, especially after one of the injured women began to scream upon seeing the lights of the approaching rescue ship and thinking it was a Russian military ship. She was convinced the Russians would hold off far enough away to wait for everyone to die or was there to take them all as cold war prisoners to frozen Siberia.
Carol, who was the only surviving stewardess, lifted many spirits that night, on the lone rubber life raft and later on the rescue ship Celerina. Upon returning home to New Jersey, she gave up flying as a stewardess and became a tour guide, emphasizing world wide travel. She formed her own company and to this day the firm carries her married name, “Hansen Tours and Travel.”
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Tragedy Leads to Unexpected Career Change
Newly minted combat paratrooper, Fred Caruso, son of a second generation Italian immigrant family in New York, gained unexpected notoriety by writing a very detailed description of the plane crash, beginning with the fire in engine number three which burst into flame right out of his window. His day was going down hill fast and the fire was the last straw. His writing began soon after making it to safety on the Celerina, and continued until the evacuation at Galley Head. That writing, in the form of a letter to his parents in New York resulted in a full front page of a widely read British newspaper, the Daily Mail.
That twist of fate soon led to his finding an opportunity as an Army journalist, which ultimately led to his final assignment at the Stars and Stripes News in Darmstadt, the same place as Peter Foley worked at the time of the crash.
The journalism experience led him into a lifelong career. It was the rescue and evacuation to Ireland that led him on a lifelong quest to become an Irishman himself.
The experience at the Stars and Stripes inspired hime to finish his last two years of college at the University of Montana School of Journalism at Missoula, Montana. This led to meeting his eventual bride, an Irish lass who was also pursuing a journalism degree. (Montana has an extremely high number of Irish immigrants, mainly due to the copper mines at Butte).
Marriage into a second generation Irish family led to the pursuit of Irish roots, which led to both of them becoming full Irish citizens. They soon purchased an Irish farmhouse not far from the point of rescue at Galley Head near Cork City. The two of them began exploring leads on the little known crash of the Flying Tiger, all of which led to the 50th anniversary memorial at Galley Head.
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Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Every story on this site is unique and nearly all would defy the human ability to “dream it up.”