In The Logic Of The World, This Looked Like A Suicide Mission — But They Still Went

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The sea has two moods, one is of great calm, peace and beauty, the other is rage. Those who have gone to sea from the beginning have done so with a certain sense of awe and trembling.  

There is nothing quite so humbling as being out beyond sight of land floating in the vast and deep sea. Those who have gone to sea know the sense of smallness one experiences there.

But it is when one is caught up in the unimaginable power of a great storm at sea that one knows true, unspeakable fear and desperation.

Disney Pictures has just produced a movie called, The Finest Hours, which is based on a book by the same title. It is due to come out to theaters in January of 2016. It is about a true story that took place off of the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts on February 18, 1952, that involved a storm, two sinking ships and a four-man Coast Guard crew. In the annals of the United States Coast Guard, this is remembered as the greatest small boat rescue in their long history.

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The storm was in fact a superstorm. There had been nothing like it in living memory up to that time. Out over the horizon, two T2 tanker ships were caught up in the fury of the storm’s rage. Both ships were torn in two by the power of wind and waves. One, the Pendleton, was floundering 5-6 miles off of Cape Cod. At 6:00 p.m. the Coast Guard station at Chatham on the east end of Cape Cod got the call to go out to the Pendleton. Four Coast Guardsmen led by BM1 Bernard Webber, volunteered to take on the mission and went to sea in their 36-foot motorized lifeboat (MLB) CG-36500. 36 feet of man made machine, four men and a 90 horsepower gasoline engine left the safety of terra firma and headed out into the raging seas.

In the logic of the world, this looked like a suicide mission, but they went.

There were people in danger out there. Who else would help them? In the time honored tradition of the U.S. Coast Guard, they knew they had to go out, but they did not have to come back. You can get a more detailed account of the event by reading an article I wrote for this site a year ago.

Webber and his crew arrive back safely at their base with 32 of the Pendleton’s survivors on board the Coast Guard motor lifeboat / Via Cape Cod Community College and The U.S. Coast Guard

I have only seen the trailer of this movie. I knew about the story and wrote an article about it for this site about a year ago. The movie has adapted the story as told in the book, The Finest Hours, for the big screen. The real event has all of the qualities of a true epic. The men who were involved in it were as heroic as any epic hero in literature.

The difference is that they were real people. Moved by their sense of duty and their commitment to their fellow man, those four men found within them the courage and the strength to do what had to be done for the good of others. It is a story for the ages. We hope that the movie tells the story well. The men who were involved deserve that. My guess is that it will be a fine movie.


We here at the Veterans Site offer our deepest respect and thanks to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. You are true to your motto, Semper Paratus, Always Ready. You show us our better selves. God bless all who are currently serving and those who have served in the Coast Guard.

You have all lived “The Finest Hours.”

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.