Having survived an Atlantic air disaster, U.S. Paratrooper Fred Caruso’s first glimpse of Ireland was from a rescue helicopter off the West Cork coast, writes Garry Ahern.


Fred Caruso was born in Rockland County, New York, in 1941 to second-generation Italian Catholic parents. His mother was the eldest of thirteen children while his father was the youngest of eight.

At Rockland, the family lived in the midst of a large Orthodox Jewish community, whose culture left a lasting impression on Fred. Growing up with no family ties to Irish-America, young Caruso was blissfully unaware of Ireland, but he was destined to arrive there, unwillingly, and in traumatic circumstances.

When aged twenty, and studying at Albany State Teacher’s College, a recruiting poster caught Fred’s attention. Attracted by the challenges this seemed to offer, he volunteered for service in the U.S. army and then opted for training as a paratrooper in the airborne division.

While overseas service was not on Caruso’s mind, within a year of enlisting he was sent to Europe, on a two-and-half year tour. This brought a near-fatal episode which would change his life forever.
Arising from construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the reinforcing of the border dividing East and West Germany, Russian-American tensions had risen considerably, and U.S. troop levels in Europe continued to be high.

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