About this site

By Fred Caruso, aka “O’Caruso”

Fred Caruso 2012

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

Fresh Out of Jump School

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.

Caruso as Army Journalist

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.

Born Again Irish - The book

Book Cover

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.

12 Responses to About this site

  1. Sheri Koyama says:

    Fred O’Caruso is my uncle and I remember hearing his story when I was a small child. I am so proud of Fred for pursuing his memories and writing a comprehensive book for the 50th anniversary. Hopefully others will remember and add to the story.

    • Corry en Leo Rijken says:

      Fred is a good friend for many years and we have known about FT923 since the first we met in Ireland. (We live in the Netherlands). He send us his book about this tragedy as a gift. It is a great idea to make a film of it.
      Greetings Corry and Leo Rijken. The Netherlands.

  2. Art Gilbreth says:

    Fred contacted me about a week ago and told me about his web page Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the ditching of flight 923. Several years ago I met a lady ( much younger then myself) that was a Flight attendant for Flying Tiger lines, she told me that during her training the company used the ditching of flight 923 as part of that training. Through her connections I was able to communicate with Carol Gould by email. I also have talked to Peter Foley, I think Peter did the piece in the Saturday Evening Post. I have tried for years to find Fred Gazelle, I want to thank him for saving my life. When I made it to the raft I found myself on my back with someone sitting on my chest. Every time we would get to the bottom of a wave the water in the raft would go over my head and I had to hold my breath until we started up another wave. I tried to get the guy to move , but he was in shock and just sat there. One of the times we were at the top of a wave I saw Fred in the moon light and started to yell at him. The last thing I heard before going under was Fred saying where are you? I could only raise my arm and start waving. I felt the weight leave my chest and I was able to sit up with my head out of the water. Thanks Fred. I was also one of the four sent to the Bonnaventure (sp?) so I never got the chance to see Fred and thank him.
    I’m sure everyone noticed, but incase you didn’t Flight # 923 went down on Sept (9) 23! I don’t even get close to a plane that has the same flight number as the date.
    Thanks Fred (Caruso) for putting this this page together. I hope to hear from you soon. Since you were a reporter and a writer you can clean up my spelling errors! Art

    Email: agilbreth@sunriverrealty.com
    Website: http://www.sunriver-crosswater.com
    Living in: Sunriver Oregon
    Just turned 71years old – I feel very lucky and blessed to say that , it could have ended at 21.

  3. dan nicholson says:

    Go Fred! You are unsinkable and this project like the rest will float.

  4. Karen Eldred-Stephan says:

    I have just discovered this site and am extremely moved. Our father Robert C. Eldred and our mother were on that plane. For about 8 hours on that terrible day in 1962, my brother Bob and I thought we were orphans. I was 17, he was 19. No one knew anything, only that our parents’ plane had ditched and that they were still searching. Sometime in the late evening (Massachusetts time) we had word that my father had been rescued and was on a ship. As I discovered in reading here on the web site (and I thank you for that) he was then airlifted to Cork. Although Willie Smith’s story says he didn’t seem to be injured, indeed he was and landed in the hospital for some weeks with severe burns (he told us that it was the combination of salt water and aviation fuel that burned the skin).
    I will take my time now to read through the site over the next days and then I will try to tell the story as our father told it to us. Perhaps there is something I can add to the story as a whole.There are also several errors in details concerning my parents that I will try to correct.
    I am so terribly sorry that I didn’t know about the ceremony last year. I live in Germany now and very likely could have made it over to Ireland. But who knew about where the children might be.
    Once more, I thank you Fred for this site. I will be writing to my brother so he can read it as well.

    Karen Eldred-Stephan

  5. Gordon Williams says:

    hello Fred, I’ve just found your site; very good; at the time I was on HMCS Bonaventure. Here are a few notes from my diary. “Sept 17, 1962 HMCS Bonaventure leaves Halifax, Nova Scotia with destroyer escorts Athabasca, Cayuga, Micmac, Nooka, and Crescent enroute Rotterdam
    Sept 24 2154Z received report of Flying Tiger Constellation ditching 320 miles NW;
    76 passengers, Bonnie heading there at full speed with Athabasca,
    Sept 25 0330Z Swiss ship Celerina sights rafts, “many survivors”
    0400Z Bonnie launched Tracker aircraft; MV Anadina rescued some;
    1330Z planes search area, Bonnie has 12 bodies aboard, 3 from Celerina, and
    9 from Anadina, also 3 injured survivors , rest are on Celerina
    16 missing, 48 survived, 12 dead
    Sept 27 at Shannon, Ireland; bodies flown ashore by helicopters;

  6. Kenneth D Stellon says:

    Hi Fred,
    My name is Ken Stellon. I contacted you last year about Frank Ruffalo. I am sitting at a restaurant in Chicago with him right now. Frank and his wife will be visiting us in Fountain Hills, AZ probably May 1st through May 6th. Frank was wondering if you will be able to meet in Arizona. If so we will pick you up at Sky Harbor. You can also stay at our house. Please let me know what you think.

  7. Kenneth D Stellon says:

    Hi Fred,
    Two survivors, Frank Ruffalo and Sam Vasquez, reunited at my home in Arizona today. Would you like a photo of them?
    Ken Stellon

    • Charles P Keck says:

      I would very much like this photo. I would also like to hear from Sam Vasquez and Frank Ruffalo. It has been so many years.

  8. Paul R Stewart says:

    Hey Fred,
    Just informed about the site today, and maybe we can start exchange a few e-mails and catch up on the last 50 plus years – reply to paulrstewart@att.net

  9. gkfields says:

    Is it possible that Carmen Figueroa thought she heard the man say “Toby” but he actually said “Bobby”? My uncle Bobby Dawkins survived the crash. He was one of paratroopers. He hasn’t said much about the crash, but he did mention rescuing several people and I am just learning the details from reading on this post and various websites. He seems very sad that he was not able to save some others. He is in the African American man very back middle of the survivors photo. He lives in Atlanta. I am planning to call him tomorrow to talk with him about it in more detail.

  10. Rachel Healy says:

    Hi Fred,

    My name is Rachel Healy, I am a researcher and was hoping to have a chat with you about a TV series I am currently working on. If you could email me back on the address supplied I can get back to you with all the details. I also wondered if you are currently in Ireland?

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s