The 1952 rescue of over twenty stranded seamen on a halved oil tanker ranks as one of the Coast Guard’s’ “finest hours.”
The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. Henry Holt, 2014, 153 pages plus appendix.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 12-up
Every New England sailor and fisherman knows what a nor-easter is—a fearsome winter storm that rakes the coast and roils the sea. February 18, 1952 saw one of the worst nor-easters in history, with blinding icy winds and 60-foot waves. On that night, not one but two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, broke in half less than 50 miles off Cape Cod. On both vessels, bow and stern drifted apart, bearing south with 27 helpless, terrified men.
A distress call came in to Chatham Lifeboat Station, an outpost of the Coast Guard on the elbow of Cape Cod. Boatswain’s mate Bernie Webber was ordered to take out CG36500, a 36-foot lifeboat, to locate the wreck of the Pendleton. By then the wind was roaring, visibility was barely above zero, and the waves over Chatham Bar were reaching 70 feet. But Webber was convinced God was calling him to do this. As the four Guardsmen headed toward Chatham Bar, doubting they would even get across it, they sang “Rock of Ages.”
With no radio contact, no instruments in the dark, no shelter from the elements, they not only managed to locate the Pendleton stern, but brought back all but one of the stranded men on it. There were other rescue attempts on the four tanker halves, but Webber’s was the most successful, and is still honored as one of the Coast Guard’s “Finest Hours.” The authors give full credit to the faith of the rescuers.
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 4Artistic/literary value: 4Consideration:
Some quoted profanityThe movie version will have you on the edge of your seat!Also at Redeemed Reader:
All Thirteen, one of this year’s Newbery honor books, tells a similar story of rescue against all odds, but with a much larger cast of characters.
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