CAPE COD TIMES
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