November 15, 2018

By Beth Treffeisen

CHATHAM — The last surviving member of the Coast Guard crew aboard the motor lifeboat 36500 during the historic 1952 rescue of 32 seamen off the stricken oil tanker Pendleton rescue has died.

Andrew Fitzgerald — known as a funny, brave and reluctant hero — was 86.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” Fitzgerald would say at the start of the story about the harrowing night of Feb. 18. 1952, which forever changed his life.

As a nor’easter raged off the shores of Cape Cod, two large tankers split in half, propelling the then 20-year-old Coast Guard engineer and three other Coast Guardsmen into history on their 36-foot boat.

Facing 60-foot high seas, the four men boarded the 36500, led by coxswain Bernard Webber, and headed out into the storm to find the sinking tanker Pendleton, where 33 men waited anxiously for help.

As the crew of the 36500 navigated through the Chatham sandbar, which is tricky enough on a good day, they lost their compass, said Peter Kennedy, who worked on the major restoration of the boat.

Fitzgerald was in the front of the boat when it hit some swells and knocked him all the way back toward the rear, he said.

Then, the engine stalled and Fitzgerald had to go down below and re-prime it, said Kennedy. Fitzgerald was burned by the hot plugs as he restarted the engine, Kennedy said.

“He had quite a history,” said Kennedy. “He was thrown out of the boat and got back into the boat to restart the engine in 30- to 40-foot seas.”

The crew of the Coast Guard rescue boat 365000 after rescuing 32 crewmen from the tanker Pendleton off the coast of Chatham in 1952. From left are Bernie Webber, Andrew Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey, and Ervin Maske. Coast Guard Photo




  1. Heroes for sure – this trailer had me on the edge of the chair. Saint Peter was looking out this night for sure.
    Kim thanks I wanted to share this with you too: Dave & Kim


  2. Reblogged this on Cape Ann Community and commented:
    Opening night of The Finest Hours in Boston was a brilliant show for USCG, made all the more special by Fitzgerald’s presence. The 36 Foot Motor Lifeboat was a fantastic and worthy vessel. It is a true bridge between the oared surfboat of the USLSS and the modern motored USCG boats. It was the last of the open boat where the crew was exposed to the elements at their stations. The trip of the 36500 is still considered the greatest small boat rescue in USCG history. I was fortunate to find the 36501 boat in New Bedford and to be part of the team that brought it to Hull and installed it in their Pemberton Point station. It sits there on the original rails that gravity launched these fine vessels into service when the flag went up. Definitely recommend people checking out the story of these boats and the people who manned them. You will not be dissapointed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing that Michael, great history, background, and interesting to know of your part!

      On a lighter note, one of my best friends did the costumes for “The Finest Hours.” She said it was murder on the actors and costumers because the cast was wet all the time, and they needed a half dozen of each costume because of the soaking conditions.


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