In a 1952 Nor’easter, two World War II era tankers, SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton, split in half five miles off Cape Cod. All four halves remained afloat, and some 32 sailors were rescued by Coast Guardsmen aboard a puny, 36-foot wooden boat. (Courtesy: Casey Sherman)
The lifeboat's crew consisted of (from left) Petty Officer 1st Class Bernard Webber, Petty Officer 2nd Class Andy Fitzgerald and Seamen Richard Livesey and Ervin Maske. Coast Guard buffs have attempted to recreate their daring rescue - minus the 80-foot waves - but have not pulled it off. (Courtesy: Casey Sherman)
The rescue effort was seen as a "suicide mission." As they sailed into the storm, the small boat's windshield shattered and the storm-driven swells tore the compass from its mounts. (Courtesy: Casey Sherman)
In "The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue," co-authors Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman describe the daring rescue of 70 sailors off the Massachusetts coast.
Even a museum dedicated to the event is in the works, in New London, Conn., where the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is located.
On Feb. 18, 1952, four young men from the U.S. Coast Guard braved 80-foot waves and a blinding Nor'easter to face the impossible: the rescue of 84 men whose World War II-era tankers split in half hours earlier, leaving them trapped off the coast of Cape Cod.