February 18 - 1952: Coast Guard rescues 32 sailors from stricken tanker Pendleton

1875: Two schooners with 24 crew members disappear on Grand Banks
The mural showing the rescue of the Pendleton crew, painted by Tony Falcone, is displayed at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

1952: CG36500 saves 32 lives off Monomoy as Pendleton goes down

One of the most daring rescues in Coast Guard history

On this day in 1952, one of the most daring rescues in the history of the Coast Guard took place six miles off Chatham.

The tanker Pendleton, en route to Boston from Baton Rouge with a cargo of oil, split in two during the winter's worst storm. Eight crew members were trapped on the ship's bow; another 33 sailors were stranded on the Pendleton's stern.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Coast Guard rescue boat CG36500, on right as she looks today, with a four-man crew - Bernie Webber, Andrew Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey and Irving Maske - rushed from Chatham Fish Pier to the stricken Pendleton. Conditions could hardly be worse - hurricane-force winds whipping snow and sleet across towering waves in pitch blackness.

Just after the rescue boat arrived off the Pendleton's stern, crew members on the tanker lowered a Jacob's ladder over the side and scrambled down, some jumping onto the rescue boat, others being fished from the water by the Coast Guardsmen. One of the Pendleton's sailors fell into the ocean and was crushed to death between the rescue boat and hull of the tanker.

The eight sailors trapped on the Pendleton's bow perished and their bodies were never recovered, but 32 of the 33 men on the tanker's stern were rescued and brought to Chatham.

"I believe the Pendleton rescue is clearly the preeminent rescue by a small boat crew, the CG36500, in the entire history of the Coast Guard," Capt. Russell Webster, former commander of Coast Guard Group Woods Hole, told the Cape Cod Times for a story marking the 50th anniversary in 2002.

In a freak coincidence, another oil tanker of the same design, the Fort Mercer, broke in two 50 miles off Cape Cod in the same fierce nor'easter that doomed the Pendleton. Coast Guard cutters rescued 38 men from the stern of the Fort Mercer, but as with the Pendleton, five sailors trapped on the bow died and their bodies were not recovered.

In 2005 the rescue boat CG36500 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

(Above: Four Coast Guardsmen and 32 temporarily safe tanker crewmen on a valiant trip aboard a 36-foot motor lifeboat and no compass to lead them back to Chatham Harbor.) See recent stories about The Pendleton here.

1875: Twenty-four Cape Cod fisherman lost as two schooners fail to return from Grand Banks

On this day in 1875 The New York Times ran a one paragraph item stating: 

"All hope of the safety of the fishing schooners Joseph Chandler and David Burnham II who have been absent upon trips to the Grand banks since Dec. 1, has been given up, and they are regarded as lost with their crews, numbering in all twenty-four men."

Countless schooners were built in Massachusetts on Cape Cod and Cape Ann beginning about 1713. One right is an oil painting of a schooner fishing on the Grand Banks by Russ Webster.

These vessels had large holds for fish and supplies, but they were also designed for speed to reach fishing grounds quickly. With fishing so profitable, owners demanded ever larger and faster vessels.

Schooners were used in North American fishing, especially the Grand Banks fishery. Between 1866 and 1890, more than 380 schooners and 2,450 Gloucester men never returned from the fishing grounds.

In a single storm on August 24, 1873, nine Gloucester vessels and 128 fishermen were lost.

The brochures on the right was published in 1875 advertising passage on a Cunard Line schooner.


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