Read The Finest Hours Online

Authors: Michael J. Tougias

The Finest Hours

BOOK: The Finest Hours
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at:
us.macmillanusa.com/piracy
.

 

To the heroes, those they saved and those who never made it back to shore, and to Adam Gamble, a real Cape Codder

—M. J. T. & C. S.

 

CONTENTS

        
Title Page

        
Copyright Notice

        
Dedication

        
Introduction: Ships, Captains, Crew, and Rescuers

         
PART I

  
1
   Chatham Lifeboat Station

  
2
   The
Pendleton

  
3
   The
Fort Mercer

  
4
   “It can't be true…”

  
5
   “You got to take the
36500
out”

  
6
   Blowout at Chatham Bar

  
7
   Chatham Mobilizes

  
8
   “He came to the surface floating”

  
9
   Losing All Hope: On Board the
Pendleton
Stern

10
   All but One: The Rescue of the
Pendleton
Stern

11
   Thirty-six Men in a 36-foot Boat

12
   Pandemonium in Chatham

         
PART II

13
   The
Mercer
's Bow Capsizes

14
   A Maneuver for the Ages

15
   Tuesday at Chatham Station

16
   The Search of the
Pendleton
Bow

         
PART III

17
   Being Labeled a Hero Can Be a Burden

18
   The Inquiry

19
   The Restoration

        
Epilogue: They Were Young Once

        
Selected Bibliography

        
About the Authors

        
Copyright

 

INTRODUCTION

SHIPS, CAPTAINS, CREW, AND RESCUERS

On February 18, 1952, an astonishing maritime event began when a ferocious nor'easter split in half a 500-foot-long T2 oil tanker, the
Pendleton
, approximately one mile off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Incredibly, just 20 miles away, a second oil tanker, the
Fort Mercer
, also split in half. On both fractured tankers, men were trapped on the severed bows and sterns, and all four sections were sinking in 40-foot seas. Thus began a life-and-death drama of survival, heroism, and a series of tragic mistakes. Of the 84 seamen aboard the tankers, 70 would be rescued, and 14 would lose their lives.

Here is a list of the men involved with each part of the tanker sections who are discussed in the book:

PENDLETON

RESCUE

Pendleton
Stern

Raymond Sybert, chief engineer

Charles Bridges, seaman

Frank Fauteux, fireman

David Brown, first assistant engineer

Henry Anderson, “wiper” maintenance worker

Fred Brown, second “wiper”

Wallace Quirey, third assistant engineer

Carroll Kilgore, crewmember

George “Tiny” Myers, oiler

Rollo Kennison, crewmember

Aaron Posvell

Aquinol Oliviera, cook

Oliver Gendron, seaman

Rescuers on the
CG 36500

Bernie Webber, captain

Richard Livesey, seaman

Andy “Fitz” Fitzgerald, engineer

Ervin Maske, crewmember

Chatham Station

Daniel W. Cluff, station commander

“Chick” Chase, boatswain's mate

Mel Gouthro, engineman first class

Pendleton
Bow

John J. Fitzgerald Jr., captain

Herman G. Gatlin, seaman

Rescuers on a 36-foot motor lifeboat

Donald Bangs, chief

Emory Haynes, engineer

Antonio Ballerini, boatswain's mate

Richard Ciccone, seaman

 

FORT MERCER

RESCUE

Fort Mercer
Bow

Frederick Paetzel, captain

John O'Reilly, radio operator

Jerome Higgins, crewman

Edward Turner, purser

Vincent Guldin, third mate

Willard Fahrner, first mate

Rescuers on the

Cutter
Yakutat

J. W. Naab, captain

Gil Carmichael, crewman

William Kiely, ensign

Paul Black

Edward Mason Jr.

Walter Terwilliger

Wayne Higgins

Bill Bleakley, communications officer

Dennis Perry

Herman Rubinsky

Phillip Griebel, crewman

Fort Mercer
Stern

Alanson Winn, crewmember

Luis Jomidad, quartermaster

Jesse Bushnell, chief engineer

Hurley Newman, quartermaster

Massie Hunt

John Braknis

Rescuers on the

Cutter
Acushnet

John Joseph, captain

John Mihlbauer

Sid Morris

Harvey Madigan, helmsman

George Mahoney, lieutenant

Rescuers on the

Cutter
Eastwind

Oliver Petersen, captain

Len Whitmore, radio operator

Larry White, ensign

John Courtney

Roland Hoffert

Eugene Korpusik

 

PART I

 

1

CHATHAM LIFEBOAT STATION

Chatham, Massachusetts: February 18, 1952

Boatswain's mate first class Bernie Webber held a mug of hot coffee in his large hands as he stared out the foggy window of the mess hall. He watched with growing curiosity and concern as the storm continued to strengthen outside. A midwinter nor'easter had stalled over New England for the last two days, and Bernie wondered if the worst was yet to come. Windswept snow danced over the shifting sands as large drifts piled up in the front yard of the Chatham Lifeboat Station.

Taking a sip of his coffee, Bernie thought of his young wife, Miriam, in bed with a bad case of the flu at their cottage on Sea View Street. What if there was an emergency? What if she needed help? Would the doctor be able to reach her in this kind of weather? These questions were fraying his nerves, and Bernie fought to put them out of his mind. Instead he tried to picture the local fishermen all huddled around the old wood stove at the Chatham Fish Pier. They would be calling for his help soon as their vessels bobbed up and down on the waves in Old Harbor, straining their lines.
If the storm is this bad now, what will it be like in a few hours when it really gets going?
he thought.

Bernie, however, wouldn't complain about the tough day he was facing. The boatswain's mate first class was only 24 years old, but he had been working at sea for nearly a decade, having first served with the U.S. Maritime Service during WWII. Bernie had followed his brother Bob into the Coast Guard; it was not the kind of life his parents had planned for him. From early childhood, Bernie's father, the associate pastor at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, had steered him toward a life in the ministry. The church deacon had even paid for Bernie to attend the Mount Hermon School for Boys, which was 105 miles away from their home in Milton.

Bernie was an outcast in the prep school crowd. He arrived in Greenfield, Massachusetts, a small town hugging the Connecticut River, with serious doubts and wearing his brother's hand-me-down clothes. He was not a strong student, and he privately questioned why he was there. Bernie knew in his heart that he did not want to follow in his father's footsteps. He was thinking about running away from school when fate intervened; a childhood friend who had crashed his father's car came looking for a place to hide out. Bernie snuck his friend into one of the dorm rooms and swiped food from the school cafeteria for the boy to eat. The two were caught after just a few days, but they did not stick around long enough to face the consequences. Instead they fled to the hills and cornfields surrounding the school before eventually making it back to Milton.

Reverend Bernard A. Webber struggled to understand the actions of his wayward son as young Bernie quit school and continued to drift. A year later, at the age of 16, when World War II was under way, Bernie got an idea that would change the course of his rudderless life. He heard that the U.S. Maritime Service was looking for young men to train. If Bernie could complete the arduous training camp, he could then serve the war effort on a merchant ship. He quickly joined up after his father reluctantly signed his enlistment papers, and he learned the fundamentals of seamanship at the Sheepshead Bay Maritime School in New York.

BOOK: The Finest Hours
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Feehan, Christine - The Scarletti Curse by The Scarletti Curse (v1.5)
Secretly Sam by Heather Killough-Walden
Amaryllis by Jayne Castle
Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Scott, Veronica
Armistice by Nick Stafford
Untwisted by Cari Quinn, Taryn Elliott