The heroic 1952 rescue of 32 crew members aboard the sinking tanker Pendelton was dramatized in the recent movie “The Finest Hours.” The Chatham Historical Society will recognize its 65th anniversary with events hosted at the Atwood House & Museum that include a special screening of a documentary film of several witnesses who shared their memories of that day.
The hero of the story, BM1 Bernard Webber, is not alive to participate in the commemoration, but he was contacted before the 50th anniversary of the rescue and his version of events are reflected in an article that appeared in the Naval Institute Proceedings in December 2001 and was reproduced on the U.S. Coast Guard’s website.
In their 36-foot motorboat Webber and his all-volunteer crew faced heavy seas in crossing a sandbar to reach the broken Pendleton. Pushed on its side by enormous waves, Webber’s self-righting lifeboat recovered each time, but its engines had to be restarted and in one dunking the compass was washed off its mount. Only with Webber’s remarkable skills as a boat handler and navigator, was the boat able to reach the Pendleton, rescue the crew in its stern, and return safely to Chatham. Thanks to the efforts of Webber and his three crewmen, all but one of those Pendleton crew members survived the ordeal. (The seven men who were in the bow of the vessel perished after the boat broke in two.)
Based on submission from the Society’s affiliate U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association, February 15, 2017
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