In post-war America, when valor was judged by the hallowed yardstick of Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Bulge, “hero” wasn’t a word thrown around lightly. But in 1962 a civilian pilot measured up. John Murray’s selfless, stunning feats garnered global headlines, prime-time media appearances, and a formal letter of gratitude from an awe-struck President Kennedy.
On a moonless September night in 1962, 900 miles from land, Flying Tiger flight 923 began to fall apart—at 21,000 feet. One by one its engines burst into flames. Most of its passengers were Special Forces, en route to West Berlin. Though highly trained and ready for anything the Soviets might throw their way, they were powerless over the North Atlantic. A crash was inevitable. Survival was Mission Impossible. Yet the scrappy pilot flouted protocol, rejected the recommended emergency procedure, “landed” his big plane in the middle of a raging sea—and evacuated all 76 on-board. Tragically, however, as the private charter wasn’t properly equipped for the harrowing hours adrift in bone-chilling water, 28 died before they could be rescued.
Murray didn’t just save 48 people from near-certain death. His stunning feats—which remain unparalleled in the history of aviation—led to safety breakthroughs that have saved countless more lives. Billions still rely on them today. Humble and quick to disavow his historic role, John Murray was a pioneer who helped pave the way for modern-day heroes like Sully Sullenberger.
Tiger or the Sea is the story of that harrowing flight.
Eric Lindner is an attorney and a Washington, D.C. native. He holds a BBA from George Washington University, a joint JD-MBA from The University of Chicago, and currently teaches graduate business ethics at Georgetown University. His business background (he sold his company in 2011) includes work with domestic and international airports, the FAA, the Coast Guard, and Lockheed. His avid interest in the Cold War, sparked by his mother’s tenure at the CIA (she was hired in 1948), has included not only extensive reading but also visits to many of its key flash-points, including Moscow, Leningrad, Budapest, Prague, and Berlin.
Lindner is also a proven interviewer. In Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), his ability to elicit confessions and other intimate, never-before-known details about long-ago events was praised by leading doctors and caregivers, as well as the BBC, AARP, Publisher’s Weekly, The Washington Independent Review of Books, and Booklist’s Rebecca Vnuk, who included it in her Top 5 memoirs of the year.
He lives in Warrenton, VA.