Those on board Flying Tiger 923 on the night of September 23, 1962

Few details were available on survivors and deceased during the first days following the crash of Flying Tiger 923. One of the first stories was from the New York Times.  That story consisted of a list of those on the plane. It separated the crew from the passengers, and these two categories were separated again as those surviving the ordeal, those who died and those who were still missing at sea. The Times did not attempt to separate by Army, Air Force, Navy and so forth.

The listing below uses the same names, however they are separated into three categories: 1-crew, 2-regular passengers and 3-combat troops. Please take note of the key to markings.

Key to markings:
(**) = story written and posted
(+) = contact made with person or family and either declined interview or provided no information, or
(no mark) = can’t locate, no story available

Aboard Flying Tiger 923 the night of September 23, 1962:

Surviving crew:

**MURRAY, Capt. John D., Oyster Bay, LI, pilot
**NICHOLSON, Samuel T., Dallas, PA, navigator
**GOULD, Carol Ann, Lyndhurst, NJ, flight attendant

Deceased crew:

BROTMAN, Jacqueline L., Chicago, IL, flight attendant.
**GARRETT, James E., Brentwood, Long Island, NY, flight engineer
MUDD, Ruth, Brown Mills, NJ, flight attendant.
PARKER, Robert W., Port Washington, Long Island, NY, co-pilot
**SIMS, Betty A., New York City, NY, flight attendant.

Surviving passengers (excluding combat troopers):

ALEPOS, Sgt. Juan J, Killeen, TX
**BENSON, Maj. Harry O., Marshfield Hills, MA
**BODUNG, Sgt. 1st Class Alfred, Indianapolis, IN
+CRAPOLICCHIO, Spec. 4 Anthony M., South Arlington, VA
**DENT, Lieut. Col. George H., Fredericksburg, VA
**ELANDER, Maj. Carl R., West Point, NY
**ELANDER, Mrs. Lois, wife of Major Elander
**ELDRED, Capt. Robert C., Jenkintown, PA
**FIGUEROA-LONGO, Capt. Juan G., Santurce, PR
**FIGUEROA-LONGO, Mrs. Carmen, wife of Captain Figueroa-Longo
**FOLEY, Sgt. Peter A., South Bend, IN
**GROVES, Mrs. Helga, wife of Specialist Groves
MacDONALD, Cpl., John E., Mexico, ME
**WILSON, Sgt. Ernest L., New Orleans, LA

Deceased passengers (excluding combat troopers): 

ALTIERI, Specialist 4 Anthony, New Haven, Conn.
ALLEN, Sgt. James, East Gadsden, AL
**BANEY, S.Sgt. Melvin H., Pelham, N.H.
BELL, Sgt. Edmond P., Colorado Springs, CO
BROADWATER, Specialist 4 Charles E., El Paso, Texas
**DEVLIN, Capt. John P., Philadelphia, PA
**DEVLIN, Mrs. Naomi, wife of Captain Devlin
**DENT, Mrs. Elizabeth, wife of Lieut. Col. George H. Dent, Fredericksburg, VA
**ELDRED, Mrs. Edna, wife of Capt. Robert C. Eldred, a survivor, Jenkinstown, PA
**MISKIMEN, S. Sgt. Richard M., New Philadelphia, OH
**GROVES, Specialist 4 John, Pittsburg, PA
**HOOPII, Mrs Rachel K, Oahu, Hawaii
**HOOPII, Luana, child of Mrs Hoopii
**HOOPII, Ullani, Child of Mrs. Hoopii

Surviving combat troopers:  

**ACEVEDO-CAMBERO, Pvt. Raul, Los Angeles, CA
**APANEL, Pvt. Edward J. Jr., Palisades Park, NJ
BAKER, Pvt. Mack Jr., Bastrop, LA
**BAZELL, Pvt. Frank D., Van Nuys, CA
**BROWN, Pvt. George V., Oshkosh, WI
**CARUSO, Pvt. Frederick C. Jr., Nanuet, NY
**DAVIDSON, Pvt. Larry E.., Manchester, MD
DAWKINS, Pvt. Bobby D., Cowpens, SC
**GAZELLE, Pvt. Frederick C., Pasadena, CA
**GILBRETH, Pvt. Arthur L., Big Bear Lake, CA
HAWKINS, Pvt. Robert C. Birmingham, AL
HOFER, Pvt. Joe E., Birmingham, AL
KECK, Pvt. Charles P., Gibonville, NC
**KOLTAK, Pvt. Thomas P., Morgantown, WV
McGLOTHREN, Pvt. Willard F., Cottage Hill, FL
MENDEZ, Pvt. Reynolds, Chula Vista, CA
MURRAY, Pvt. Michael A., Youngstown, OH
NEVILLE, Pvt. Larry A., Fort Walton, FL
PIERCE, Pvt. Leroy F., Modesto, CA
+RUFFOLO, Pvt. Frank A., Chicago, IL
SAYERS, Pvt. James M., Princeton, WV
**SMITH, Pvt. Willie Jr., Atlanta, GA
**STEWART, Pvt. Paul R. Ardmore, OK
+THORNSBERRY, Pvt. Gordon E., Russellville, Ark
**TOMINELLO, Pvt. Dominic, Mohnton, PA
**TOOLE, Pvt. John Jr., Montgomery, AL
+TRAWICK, Pvt. Richard M., Birmingham, AL
**VASQUEZ, Pvt. Samuel C., Phoenix, AZ
+WERNER, Pvt. Douglas N., Munci, IN
WIDMER, Pvt. Edwin, Rigewood, Queens, NY

Deceased combat troopers:

BINFORD, Pvt. Harold K., Luverne, MN
BROWN, Pvt. John E. Pittsburg, PA
BUCEK, Pvt. August Jr., Wauwatosa, WI
HANSON, Pvt. Joe W., Fernwood, Idaho
**JOHNSON, Pvt. Carroll M., Tempe, AZ
JOHNSON, Pvt. Don L., Oakland, CA
**LESANE, Pvt. Harold, Philadelphia, PA
MANNING, Pvt. James L., Belleville, IL
McGINTY, Pvt. James T., Atlanta, GA

If anyone knows anything about any of those “unmarked,” please contact this site editor, Fred Caruso, a survivor, and let him know.

Posted in flight crew, new combat troopers, passengers | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Hawiiaan mother and two children lost in raging sea

“I saw a child being thrown out a window
by a man 
after the plane hit the Atlantic. The child was never seen again. The other child also vanished.”


Rachael Hoopii with children

Rachael K. Hoopii, 32, of Waimanolo, Hawaii was on her way with two children to join her husband in Munich, Germany. Mrs. Hoopii and her little girls, Uilani, 10, and Luana, 6, were all eager to see the family together again.

Tech. Sgt. Bernard Palinapa Hoopii, 36, of Wailuku, was energized, excited for his family’s arrival. He was a veteran of 12 years of Army service, which included action in Korea. He had been separated from Rachael, Uilani and Luana for the past two years.  Bernard and Rachael had been married for six years.

The three Hoopii women were headed to the reunion by way of the Military Air Transportation Service (MATS) on Flying Tiger 923. They never got there. They all died that night, in the frigid, gale-whipped waters of the North Atlantic, 500 miles off the coast of Ireland, on September 23, 1962.

There was no news of the dead in far-off Hawaii until five days after the disaster, on September 27. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper finally carried a front-page report of sorrowful deaths of the two children and equally sorrowful story of the likely final pleas from the mother, desperately alone, seeking refuge on the raft.

Army Paratrooper, Private Raul Acevedo-Cambero of Los Angeles, said, “I saw a child being thrown out a window by a man after the plane hit the Atlantic. The child was never seen again. The other child also vanished.”

Another Paratrooper, Private Frederick G. Gazelle, of Pasadena, California, said he tried to save a woman he believed to be the children’s mother.

“I was inside the raft on the edge and a woman swam to the side,” he said. “I tried to pull her aboard but men poured over us like sardines.”

“I held on and she kept crying, ‘Please let me up.’ But they kept on coming over and around us. I found myself under a pile of men and I could not hold on. The woman disappeared.” The sea never slowed its rage.

Army Sergeant First Class Alfred Bodung, of Indianpolis, Indiana – one of the survivors flown days later to Cork, Ireland, and then to Oxford, England, for medical treatment – said he had been “detailed” to look after the children as the plane came down. According to earlier reports, he had been given the impossible assignment by Stewardess Jacqueline Brotman, 24, who perished in the crash.

“I took off my shoes and put on a lifejacket,” Bodung said. “In the row behind me were the two children. But I was knocked out in the crash and never knew what happened to them. When I came to, the plane was filling with water fast and I dived out.”

Bodung said he found the raft, which became so crowed that people were lying and sitting on top of each other. He got in, sandwiched between other survivors and prayed. He said the next five hours until rescue by the Celerina, were the most terrible hours of my life.

And that was the end of three Hoopiis, gone in the cold, wet darkness.

Roberta Hoopii


Perhaps by fate, another Hoopii daughter (by a previous marriage), Roberta Kanani Mokilehua, 13, had originally left home for the trip with her step-mother and two sisters on August 28. They made a three-week stop over in California to visit relatives on the mainland. Roberta disliked the early September California cold so much, and got so homesick for Hawaii that she returned to the islands on September 3, some 20 days prior to the doomed flight. She was staying with her grandmother, Mrs. Robert Kekauoha, in Waimanalo, at the time of the crash.

Mother Rachel was one of six children. She was born on Oahu and went to Waimanalo Schools.  She had long wanted to join her husband in Germany, but had to wait until restrictions were lifted on relocation of dependents. The trip to Germany was her first trip away from the Hawaiian islands.

Tech. Sgt. Hoopii was a native of Hana, Maui.

*     *     *     *     *

This is a rerun of an article posted on February 1, 2012. It is intended to remind us that there were far more than combat troops in the aircraft. The rerun of this post is also intended to draw the attention of the Hoopii family. Additional information is requested.

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Crew members to be remembered

Most of the information contained within this posting is obtained from the Civil Aeronautics Board report of September 10, 1963.

Robert Parker, Port Washington, Long Island, New York

First Officer Robert W. Parker, age 27, had a total of 2,430 flying hours, of which 350 were in an L-1049 type aircraft. He held a valid airman certificate No. 1421814 with commercial airplane single and multiengine land and instrument privileges. His initial check in L-1049H aircraft was on May 16, 1962. His last FAA physical examination was passed on August 10, 1962. He had flown 184.3 hours in the last 90 days, 65.8 hours in the last 30 days and arrived in Gander at 0757 on September 22, 1962, the day prior to the flight. He had 33 hours of rest prior to the flight.



Jacqueline Brotman, Moline, Illinois

Stewardess Jacqueline L. Brotman, age 24, was hired on July 17,1962. She had approximately three years prior experience with other airlines. She completed ground school on July 19, 1962 , but her records indicated no wet ditching drill. She had flown 162.5 hours in the last 90 days, 43.1 hours in September; and had over three days of rest prior to departing Newark at 0900 on September 23.

In the caption to her photo to the right, her father said, “She set her heart on a flying career.”


Ruth Mudd


Stewardess Ruth Mudd, age 24, was hired on August 6, 1962. She had three and one-half years of previous experience with MATS (Military Air Transport System). She completed ground school on August 18, 1962. She completed ground school in August 18, 1962, and her last wet ditching drill was on August 1962. She had flown 134.8 hours in the last 90 days; 69.5 hours in September; and had over two days’ rest prior to departing Newark at 0900 on September 23.

In the caption to her photo on the right, it says “She had decided to give up flying and was on her last trip.”

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Survivor says little about the harrowing experience

“It has been almost 52 years since the plane ditched in the North Atlantic
and you (the FT923 site editor) are the first one I have talked to
about that night since I left Germany and the men
that shared the same experience we did.”

That is what Charles Keck of Gibsonville, North Carolina had to say in an email follow up to a recent interview for this site in which he said he “talks very little about it.” Keck calls Sunday, September 23, 1962, the ”worse night” of his life.


Keck on the deck of the rescue ship.

Keck was knocked out on impact as Flying Tiger 923 attempted to make a soft water ditching after the loss of three of its four engines. The impact tore off the right wing and broke open the bottom cargo cabins.

The cold water rushing in to the broken aircraft awakened Keck to find that seats had broken loose and were piled on top of him. His seatbelt was still fastened as he lay under that pile.

Breaking out of his seatbelt, he pushed his way from under the pile of seats. Water was waist deep by then leaving almost no time for thinking. Almost instantly, he bolted out the left wing window.

Once out, he fought the ice-cold furious waves as they pushed him against the fuselage of the sinking Super Constellation. By that time only three to four feet of the plane were rising above the waves. Fearing being sucked under water by the sinking wreckage, he pushed himself away and started swimming into the darkness. He heard frantic voices shouting about the life raft. He swam in that direction and luckily he came upon it. By that time he was unable to climb on board, but someone already inside pulled him in.

The single 25 person life raft was ultimately crammed with 51 survivors, many overcome with shock and all fighting hypothermia. As he wedged his way into the mass, he realized he had a seriously cut leg and an injury to his head.

Keck remembers a bit of the first two hours in the raft, the twisting and bobbing and ice cold splashes of waves breaking over the tiny craft. But, he says he doesn’t remember any of the last four hours, including the approach of the rescue ship and evacuation off the raft. He says all he can remember is that an Italian seaman pulled him onto the safety of the deck.

His injuries were treated while on the Celerina by fellow survivor Dr. Juan Figueroa and he was able to go on to the port of Antwerp. After spending some recovery time at a hospital in Frankfurt he went on to his assignment as an army engineer with the 12th Engineering Battalion in Dexheim, near Openheim, Germany. His company was all airborne qualified.

The Flying Tiger ditching terrified him, but didn’t discourage him from flying or jumping out of airplanes. In all, he logged in 84 jumps in the six years after the crash. He reinlisted in 1965 for another three years of airborne service and was rotated back to the states in 1966. He managed to avoid Viet Nam, but saw 13 months of duty in the Dominican Republic.

After leaving the service 1967, he worked for the Power Company and married Carolyn. They have been married for 46 years in February. His father-in-law was in the wood cutting business. They decided to join forces and go into business together in Gibsonville and are still operating after 44 years, now with his son, Erick on board.

In response to the question, “What was your worse memory of the disastrous night?”, he responds, “It was all bad.” He says he was scared to death until he said the Lord’s Prayer, and then he wasn’t scared.

Keck recommends as a result of the crash, “Trust in God that everything will be all right.” And, “Stay close to the family.”

Charles (who goes by his nickname of Pete) and wife Carolyn have one son also named Charles. He goes by the name Erick. Erick and wife Anna have one son named Logan Thomas. They all live in the Gibsonville community.

*     *     *     *     *
Note: Keck was a hard person to find. In fact, it was he who found us on the internet some time ago. He was watching us silently for some time. He finally made contact with us to ask for a digital photo of fellow survivors Frank Ruffalo, of Chicago, and Sammy Vasquez, of Phoenix. The photo appeared in the reader comments story posted on June 1, 2014.

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Epilogue to mother’s scrap book by Gordon Thornsberry


On Sunday, September 23, my mother cooked lunch for a large group of relatives. After lunch, the men were watching a football game when a news bulletin came across the television. A plane crashed in the North Atlantic ocean carrying 76 soldiers, dependents and crew. A comment jokingly was said, “Sure hope Gordon wasn’t on that plane,” and went back to watching the ball game.

At 8:00AM the following morning, my mother received the following telegram. My father had already gone to work.


Continue reading

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Gordon Thornsberry: Mother’s scrapbook provides details of North Atlantic crash

Written and submitted by Gordon Thornsberry, Russellville, Arkansas


My mother had a scrapbook on the crash which I inherited when she passed away. The scrapbook included telegrams, newspaper clippings, photos and a letter I wrote to my family detailing my experience. The letter had been passed around and read by family members. The numerous tears eventually caused wording to smear making the letter barely legible. I say this knowing that there were forty-seven other letters meeting the same fate. We, the survivors, know what happened to us but our families went through periods of time not knowing our fate. Our families were lucky.

Following is my account written less than a month after the crash in a letter to my family: October 14, 1962

Dear All,

Hope this finds everyone okay. Sorry I have waited so long about writing but since I have been here I have really been busy.

Germany is really a beautiful country. Every plot of ground is growing something or is being plowed. Everybody has flowers around their house or sticking out their windows. Over here you have to worry more about getting hit by a bicycle than you do by a car. You see people regardless of age riding bicycles. Continue reading

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Survivor and two rescuers meet in Swiss village of Celerina

Village of Celerina welcomes reunion.

1962 plane crash survivor Fred Caruso (center) meets two of his rescuers Walter Wunderlin (left) and Pierre-Andre Reymond (right) in the Swiss village of Celerina.

A tiny village in the Swiss Alps was the site of a reunion on July 18th of a North Atlantic airplane crash survivor and two of his rescuers. The village of Celerina welcomed Fred Caruso, Pierre-Andre Reymond and Walter Wunderlin who first met six hours after the September 23, 1962 crash. That was when the Swiss freighter MS Celerina, named for the Swiss village, intercepted and plucked Caruso’s life raft packed with traumatized survivors from the storm-swept seas.

At the time of the crash, Caruso was 21 years old and was one of 40 U.S. Army paratroopers flying from Maguire Air Force base in New Jersey to Frankfurt, Germany. There were a total of 76 men, women and children aboard. Twenty-eight of those perished. Continue reading

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