In late February 1952, a nor’easter hit off the coast of Cape Cod, so highly effective that two T2 tankers break up in half the identical night time. One of many tankers, the Fort Mercer, was in a position to radio for assist; so by the point the Coast Guard found there was one other ill-fated tanker in want of rapid help, their assets and manpower had been extraordinarily depleted. What occurred subsequent as 4 rescuers braved 60-foot seas and 70-knot snow-laced winds in a tiny motorized lifeboat to avoid wasting 32 Pendleton survivors is the plot of Disney’s gripping movie The Best Hours (out on DVD and Blue-Ray Might twenty fourth). We’ve lately found that chief of the rescue, Bernie Webber, was in possession of a Chelsea Clock that was retrieved from the Pendleton within the aftermath of the wreck. Webber saved the clock from 1966 to 1982, earlier than gifting it to the Orleans Historic Society the place it nonetheless resides and “nonetheless retains good time.” Right here’s the story of the Pendleton, the rescue, and the Chelsea Clock.
Constructed by the Kaiser Firm in 1944, the SS Pendleton was a 503-foot, 10,448 Sort T2-SE-A1 tanker in-built 1944 in Portland, Oregon for the Struggle Transport Administration. In 1948, she was offered to Nationwide Bulk Carriers, a transport firm which owned and operated oil tankers. On February 12, 1952, she departed on a job from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a crew of 45 males and cargo together with 122,000 barrels of kerosene and heating oil. On February 17, the Pendleton arrived off the coast of Boston late at night time to excessive climate situations and low visibility. The Captain, John Fitzgerald, opted to face off and as an alternative slowly head into Massachusetts Bay, however wind and sea situations worsened. Someday after 4 am, the vessel rounded the tip of Cape Cod off Provincetown.
At about 5:50 am on the morning of February 18, the crew heard a sequence of explosive cracking noises after which the sharp sound of bending steel because the Pendleton took a heavy lurch and snapped in two, leaving the bow part fully with out energy. The Captain and 7 different crewmen aboard the bow perished at sea.
However the stern part maintained energy and restricted operational skills. With the Captain gone, Chief Engineer Raymond Sybert took cost of the opposite 32 survivors as they continued to float in mountainous seas practically six miles off Cape Cod. And not using a radio, which was misplaced with the bow, no S.O.S. can be issued.
At 3 pm, the Pendleton’s stern part was noticed by the Coast Guard at Chatham Lifeboat Station. BM1 Bernard Webber was ordered to select a crew and take the 36-foot CG-36500 MLB (constructed to carry solely 12 males) over the treacherous Chatham bar to help the survivors within the Pendleton’s stern part. Solely three males had been out there, since “different crew members had made themselves scarce once they heard that CG-36500 was to be despatched out,” stated Webber. The remaining males included the station’s junior engineer, Andrew Fitzgerald, Seaman Richard Livesey, and a crewman from the close by Stonehorse Gentle Ship, Seaman Irving Maske. All three volunteered for the job.
Spoilers apart, Webber and his group efficiently carried out a heroic rescue with no compass or visibility within the monstrous storm. Thirty-two males had been finally welcomed aboard CG-36500 and introduced safely to shore in Chatham. Webber and the opposite rescuers instantly grew to become native legends, and had been awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for his or her heroism.
The next is an excerpt from Webber’s memoir, “Chatham: the Lifeboat Males,” printed in 1985.
Inside a couple of days of the wreck of the Pendleton in 1952, as quickly because the seas subsided, among the native seafaring people, identified affectionately to me as “The Chatham Pirates” clambered aboard the stays of the damaged stern part.
Rumor had it of things discovered aboard and the tales ran excessive in regards to the finds. Though shut mouthed secrecy prevailed because the order of the day, for worry there is perhaps some authorities or salvage declare, sure objects stood out as cherished souvenirs and had been talked about in hushed voices.
On the time, I had heard the rumors, and I need to admit, I used to be envious as a result of I had no memento–no remembrance from the Pendleton. As I used to be a member of the Coast Guard on the time, I by no means dared to go close to the stays for worry of being caught and court-martialed ought to I take the least little factor.
Some 14 years later, shortly earlier than retiring from the Coast Guard, I had an expertise which meant an ideal deal to me. It had an ideal impact on my life and I’d prefer to share it with you now.
Coming house from Coast Guard service in Vietnam in 1966, I discovered myself disillusioned, depressed, confused, out of contact with folks, politics and the Coast Guard–which I had served for practically 21 years.
Pals from Eastham urged that my spouse and I accompany them [to…] a neighborhood Eastham restaurant. Upon arriving on the restaurant and seeing the big quantity of vehicles parked outdoors, I urged that we go to our home moderately than cease. Our mates in whose care [sic] we had been using stated, “No, we’re going to cease in.”
Upon coming into the restaurant I used to be amazed on the crowd of folks that had been there, and that there have been so many acquainted faces. I stated to my spouse, “What do you assume is occurring right here?” She pointed as much as an indication that I had not observed. It stated, “Welcome House, Bernie.” It was a welcome house social gathering. Evidently, I used to be overwhelmed. The social gathering progressed with the weird camaraderie and human feelings of such an occasion.
Out of the group a person walked as much as me. He was an older man wearing a wool overcoat and felt hat. He was clutching a brown paper bag beneath his arm.
I then acknowledged him when he spoke as Harold Claflin, former harbormaster of Chatham. He stated, “Welcome house, Bernie,” whereas thrusting the brown paper bag he was carrying into my arms, saying additional, “Right here, this rightfully needs to be yours. I’ve had it for a few years, since simply after the shipwreck of the Pendleton.”
As I reached into the bag, I knew what Harold had given to me. I acknowledged it instantly because the ship’s clock off the damaged stern part of the Pendleton. He had obtained it only a few days after the catastrophe. Once I regarded up, Harold was gone. He had left as rapidly as he had arrived. I by no means noticed him once more, however I cherish the connection I had in working with and studying from Harold Claflin whereas he was harbormaster at Chatham. On the time I felt no man had acquired a larger present or tribute than I. Not solely was I welcomed house by mates and neighbors, however I acquired such a cherished possession from an expensive good friend and comrade.
Earlier than his loss of life in 2009, Webber introduced his prized Chelsea Pendleton deck clock to the Orlean Historic Society as a thanks for his or her restoration work in preserving the little rescue boat CG-36500 in 1982. It’s unlikely that Webber ever knew the clock he so cherished began its journey so near his native Boston again in 1944. Based on our document books, the Pendleton clock was offered to the U.S. Navy on Might 17, 1944, and made its method aboard the Pendleton — solely to be retired in its native Massachusetts after surviving shipwreck.
For extra data on the Pendleton rescue, click on right here. For extra details about the Orleans Historic Society and the CG-36500, go to the society’s web site.
>Orleans Historic Society Discusses Pendleton Clock and Famed Rescue Boat Featured in Disney’s The Best Hours Movie
>The Best Hours Captain Leaves a Lasting Legacy