It has been 50 years since First Class Boatswain's Mate (BM1) Bernard Webber and his volunteer crew of three took their 36-foot wooden motorized lifeboat out over the Chatham, Massachusetts, bar in 60-foot seas and 70-knot winds and rescued 32 men from the stricken tank vessel Pendelton.1Despite the passage of time, memories—especially the death of a 33rd crewman during the rescue—still are vivid for the 73-year-old small-boat coxswain.
This is a story of unparalleled heroism by a Coast Guard small-boat crew.
The Pendelton's Voyage
The 503-foot, 10,448-gross-ton tank vessel Pendelton (T2-SE-A1 or "T2") departed Baton Rouge on 12 February 1952 with a full cargo of Kerosene and heating oil and a crew of 41, including the master, Captain John Fitzgerald. Late on 17 February, the ship arrived off Boston. The weather was foul with extremely limited visibility, and the captain opted to stand off and headed his vessel at slow speed into Massachusetts Bay. Wind and sea conditions worsened throughout the night, building into a full-scale nor'easter with snow and high seas.