From Tougias (Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea, 2007, etc.) and Sherman (Black Dragon, 2008, etc.), a brief but gripping tale of Coast Guard heroism.
On Jan. 18, 1952, a vicious storm slammed 70-foot waves into two different oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. Both went down. Only the Fort Mercer was able to send a distress call, and during its rescue, the wreck of the Pendleton was discovered. The authors bounce between the two rescue efforts, providing moment-by-moment accounts peppered with detailed interviews with survivors. The Fort Mercer’s rescuers at one point watched helplessly as some survivors were swept into the sea to their deaths, and half of the wreck capsized and sank during the rescue operation. The Pendleton was rescued by a 36-foot Coast Guard lifeboat named only for its classification number, CG36500. A series of large waves swept its compass and other equipment overboard, and its engine was even knocked out of commission, though the crew managed to restart it. The 12-person-capacity CG36500 amazingly managed to save 32 members of the Pendleton’s crew. Tougias and Sherman ably narrate the desperate struggles of the crewmembers on both the wrecks and the rescue boats, and the visceral descriptions of the unrelenting storm will make readers appreciate the bravery of the men who put their lives on the line.
The coverage of the post-rescue inquiry slows the suspense at the end, but the authors provide an adequately action-packed account of rescue at sea.