Saturday, October 31, 2015

U.S. Navy to christen guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta

Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan is photographed with the family of Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was killed in action in Iraq, during the naming ceremony for guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta. U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht.


WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy will christen its newest guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta on Saturday, the Department of Defense announced.

The General Dynamics-built destroyer USS Rafael Peralta, designated DDG 115, is named after Marine Corpse Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Peralta was killed in action while in combat supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Department of Defense credits Peralta for saving fellow Marines during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the new vessel will honor the fallen Marine.

"The tremendous efforts of the highly-skilled men and women of the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works team have brought this ship from an idea to a reality," Mabus said in a statement ahead of the christening. "Their work will ensure that the heroism, service and sacrifice of Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta will be honored and remembered by all who come in contact with DDG 115 long after this great warship is christened."

Rafael Peralta is the third of 14 planned ships part of the DDG 51 program contract. The program involves the development and production of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, vessels designed to support carrier groups, surface action groups, and other defensive operations including anti-submarine, anti-air, and anti-surface combat.

The christening ceremony will feature Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller, who is scheduled to deliver the principal address. Family members of Sgt. Peralta will also be in attendance. Maria Peralta, Sgt. Peralta's mother, will serve as the ship's sponsor and officially christen the USS Rafael Peralta.


First World War sketches by Winnie the Pooh illustrator discovered in trunk



6:42PM GMT 30 Oct 2015

He has delighted generations of children with his charming drawings of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet Eeyore and Tigger.

Now it has emerged that before he found fame as A A Milne’s illustrator, E H Shepard used his artistic talent to document his time in the trenches during the First World War through a series of humorous caricatures.

The lost sketches, which were discovered in a trunk that lay untouched for 100 years, depict his experiences in some of the bloodiest battles on the Western Front as a captain in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Sketch showing the devastation of Zillebeke village in Belgium with Passchandaele ridge in the background. Dated November 1917Sketch showing the devastation of Zillebeke village in Belgium with Passchandaele ridge in the background. Dated November 1917 Photo: BNPS

Many sketches of life in the trenches show Shepard's upbeat humour, poking fun not only at his enemies, but also at the pompousness of his commanders and the other Tommies.

However, as the war dragged on some drawings take on a more serious tone. One, simply called 'Complete Desolation', captures the stark landscape of the Somme in black and white.

When his only brother Cyril was killed at the Somme near to where he was stationed, Shepard sent drawings of the grave home to Cyril's widow and to their sister, Ethel.

Shell types and fuse designs Shepard drew in his pocketbook, 1917Shell types and fuse designs Shepard drew in his pocketbook, 1917 Photo: BNPS

Shepard was 35 when war broke out and he served from 1916 to 1918 at the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Passchendaele.

While acting as Captain, he was awarded the Military Cross for his service at the Battle of Passchendaele. By the end of the war, he had achieved the rank of major.

It was feared that Shepard's original wartime sketches had been lost when archivists at the Shepard Trust, custodians of his work, could not find any from that era.

Self portrait sketched at some point during Shepard's time on the frontline but signed and dated February 5, 1974Self portrait sketched at some point during Shepard's time on the frontline but signed and dated February 5, 1974 Photo: BNPS

However, researchers eventually found the trunk which Shepard had filled with all his WWI mementoes including unpublished drawings, watercolours and preparatory sketches.

The box, untouched since Shepard's return to England in 1919, also contained his personal belongings and included his artist tools and uniform.

It also included a menu from a hotel in Milan from a meal that Shepard is thought to have shared with American writer Ernest Hemingway whom he met at a military hospital.

The collection has now been published for the first time in a new book called Shepard's War, written by James Campbell who runs the Shepard Trust and whose mother-in-law is Shepard's granddaughter.

A watercolour showing the view from Shepard's dugout at the Somme, 1916A watercolour showing the view from Shepard's dugout at the Somme, 1916 Photo: BNPS

Mr Campbell, from Long Wittenham near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said that he was approached by researchers who wanted use some of Shepard’s sketches of the trenches for the centenary of the First World War.

"We found in our own private archive a large box which appeared not to have been opened in almost 100 years"

James Campbell, who runs the Shepard Trust

"To our astonishment we found that we didn't seem to have anything from his time in the trenches whatsoever, which was very odd,” he said.

"Then we found in our own private archive a large box which appeared not to have been opened in almost 100 years.

"Inside it was the most incredible material from the First World War - not only did it contain all his illustrations, cartoons, paintings and illustrations but also his uniform, his briefcase, his pocketbook and his artist's material.

"One of the striking things about Shepard's drawings was that he was able to find humour in even the most grim of situations.

A watercolour of a French biplane that officially had a 'bad landing' but had in fact been shot down by friendly fire. The Somme, 1916A watercolour of a French biplane that officially had a 'bad landing' but had in fact been shot down by friendly fire. The Somme, 1916 Photo: BNPS

"He obviously took a pop at the Germans but also sends up everyone else too including the British commanders as well as the standard Tommies, the Irish and the Italians. No-one was safe from his mockery but the humour wasn't malicious.”

While Shepard was a soldier, he also worked commercially for Punch magazine and other publications.

In 1926, eight years after First World War had ended, Shepard illustrated his first Winnie the Pooh book after a colleague at Punch recommended him to A.A. Milne.

He went on to illustrate all four volumes of Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, as well as Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows.

Londoner Shepard was made an OBE in 1972 in recognition of his illustrations and died on March 24, 1976, aged 96.

Shepard's War is published by Michael O'Mara



The original Operation Sea Lion: How the Royal Navy tried to train display animals to track German U-BOATS during the First World War

The Royal Navy tried to train sea lions to track the movement of German U-Boats during the First World War, a new book has revealed.

At the height of the conflict in 1916, hundreds of merchant ships were being sunk by the German boats each month, hampering the war effort.

And in a bid discover the enemy boats before they could attack, British commanders commissioned popular sea lion trainer Joseph Woodward to test the animals to see if they could detect and follow submarines.

The crew stand on the deck of a German U-Boat in 1918. In a bid discover the enemy boats before they could attack, British commanders commissioned popular sea lion trainer Joseph Woodward to test the animals to see if they could detect and follow submarines

The crew stand on the deck of a German U-Boat in 1918. In a bid discover the enemy boats before they could attack, British commanders commissioned popular sea lion trainer Joseph Woodward to test the animals to see if they could detect and follow submarines

The theory, outlined in the a new e-book, was that the muzzled creatures would be able to detect the underwater sounds of the U-Boats, swim to the vessel and then give a signal of its location.

Initial tests in swimming pools in London and Wales were promising but when taken to the open water of the Solent, the sea lions became distracted.

In one experiment while chasing a Royal Navy submarine, they were began chasing after fish, going missing for hours on end. The experiment ended in 1917, but not before Mr Woodward renamed his creatures, 'The Actual Admirality U-Boat Hunting Sea Lions.'

The story forms part of the e-book published by the BBC, in which they collaborated with the Imperial War Museum for pictures and documents.

In the Second World War, Germany planned to launch a mission called Operation Sea Lion, to invade the United Kingdom, following the fall of France.

The theory, outlined in the a new e-book, was that the muzzled sea lions would be able to detect the underwater sounds of the U-Boats, pictured, swim to the vessel and then give a signal of its location

The theory, outlined in the a new e-book, was that the muzzled sea lions would be able to detect the underwater sounds of the U-Boats, pictured, swim to the vessel and then give a signal of its location

It was eventually called off and never carried out in favour of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

However, the US Navy has managed to train both dolphins and sea lions to hunt out dangerous sea mines, which could destroy ships and sailors if left to explode.

Dolphins and sea lions are the animals of choice because of their unique sensory and diving capabilities.

Dolphins are able to locate and mark sea mines using their sonar, while sea lions have excellent low-light vision and pin-sharp underwater hearing.

They protect ports and Navy assets from swimmer attacks, locate and attach recovery equipment to exercise and training targets as well as locate sea mines.

They can be readied for a mission within 72 hours and on short trips will swim alongside a small boat. For longer journeys they ride shot-gun on ships or by air in planes.

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6 Battle of Britain myths - WWII

A test of strength between the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the RAF, the Battle of Britain took place between July and October 1940. It was the first major military campaign in history to be fought entirely in the air.

Here, Swedish historian Christer Bergström, author of The Battle of Britain – an Epic Conflict Revisited, dispels six myths that still surround this epic battle…

Myth 1: the Luftwaffe commander Göring was incompetent

According to popular perception, the commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring (aka Goering), was a totally incompetent commander, whose unfortunate decisions placed the Luftwaffe in an unnecessarily difficult position. Certainly, he was a ruthless Nazi who eventually amassed a huge list of crimes against humanity. However, the widespread image of him as a thoroughly incompetent air force commander needs to be corrected.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Luftwaffe, the most effective air force in the world, was, after all, Göring’s very personal creation. Admittedly, not everything about the Luftwaffe was a result to Göring’s accomplishments, but he had the ability to put the right man in the right place, and he was more open to new, revolutionary ideas than many of his younger subordinates.

Göring realised early the benefits of new types of combat aviation, such as dive-bombers and long-range fighter escort. As one of the first air force commanders in the world he also took the initiative to create a specialised night-fighter force: early in the war, he ordered a couple of fighter units to begin night-fighter experiments. The twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 proved to be the aircraft best suited for this task, and in June 1940 Göring decided to redesign the fighter wing I./ZG 1 under Hauptmann Wolfgang Falck to become the first regular night-fighter unit, NJG 1.

Hermann Göring also had an inspiring effect on his subordinates. Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, who commanded Luftflotte 5 during the Battle of Britain, described Göring as a man “with a tremendous strength; he was full of bright ideas. After each meeting with him you felt strongly inspired and filled with energy”.

Myth 2: Hermann Göring ruined the German possibilities to win the battle by turning the attention against London

It is a fact that just when RAF fighter command was on the brink of destruction as a result of German air raids against its ground organisation, the Germans shifted focus and started to bomb London instead. This took place on 7 September 1940, and it gave the RAF a ‘breather’, which was used to repair the destroyed installations. When fighter command met the Luftwaffe in force again, on 15 September, the result was the decisive victory that compelled Hitler to cancel the planned invasion of Great Britain.

17 March 1938: German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, left, and Hermann Göring watch a parade honouring Hitler while standing on a balcony at the Chancellory, Berlin, Germany. Hitler had just annexed Austria in the Anschluss. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

Hermann Göring has often received the blame for this change in tactic. But a study of first-hand sources show that no one was more staunchly opposed than him to shifting the air offensive towards London.

Myth 3: Bomber command played a minor role in the Battle of Britain

Winston Churchill’s speech in the British parliament on 20 August 1940 is well known: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day.”

However, precisely what Churchill immediately afterwards asked us not to forget has been largely omitted in historiography on the Battle of Britain: “But we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.”

In fact, had it not been for the British bombings of Berlin from late August 1940 and onward, the Battle of Britain might have ended quite differently. The small-scale Berlin raids in 1940, carried out by a handful of bombers with totally inadequate navigational equipment, have been regarded as more or less meaningless pinpricks. But this disregards the main object of warfare: to destroy the enemy’s fighting spirit.

Winston Churchill inspects bomb damage caused by Luftwaffe night raids in Ramsgate, Kent, on 28 August 1940. Eight days previously he had delivered his famous speech in parliament. (Photo by Capt. Horton/ IWM via Getty Images)

On 1 September 1940, American correspondent William Shirer (the US was, at that time, still a neutral country) wrote in his diary in Berlin: “The main effect of a week of constant British night bombings has been to spread great disillusionment among the people here and sow doubt in their minds. One said to me today: ‘I’ll never believe another thing they say. If they’ve lied about the raids in the rest of Germany as they have about the ones on Berlin, then it must have been pretty bad there.’”

The direct effect of these ‘pinprick’ raids was that Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to stop attacking RAF fighter command’s ground organisation and instead start bombing London. It is commonly accepted that this was what saved fighter command from annihilation.

But RAF bomber command contributed to the victory in several other ways too. Through incessant nocturnal harassment raids, the RAF bombers disturbed the sleep of the German airmen, which – according to German reports – had serious consequences. The RAF bombers also wrought a great deal of havoc among the barges that made up the German invasion fleet, and, not least, helped to raise spirits among the hard-pressed British population.

Myth 4: the twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 was worthless as a fighter

Beginning in early September 1940, some German air units equipped with the twin-engined fighter plane Messerschmitt Bf 110 were withdrawn from the English Channel to be used as night fighters. Sometimes this has been regarded as a ‘degradation’ of the Bf 110.

In fact, under heavy pressure from Hitler and the German population to put an end to the night raids against Berlin and other German cities, Göring chose to use his very best fighter plane, the Bf 110.

This should come as a surprise to many, because a fairly common notion is that the Bf 110 didn’t suffice as a day fighter; that it performed poorly in combat; and because of this had to be assigned with fighter escorts of single-engined Bf 109s. However, none of this stands up to closer scrutiny.

The twin-engined, long-range fighter Bf 110 was the result of the war games conducted under Göring’s supervision in the winter of 1933/34. These showed that the prevailing view by then that “the bombers will always get through” – the notion that regardless of intercepting fighters and air defence a sufficient number of bombers always would get through to their assigned targets, where they were expected to cause enormous damage – was incorrect.

c1940: Four German Messerschmitts BF 110 in flight. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

In the summer of 1934, the leadership of the still secret Luftwaffe presented a study that suggested what at that time was quite revolutionary: a twin-engined fighter, heavily armed with automatic cannons as well as machine guns, to protect the bombers against enemy fighter interception. The idea was to dispatch these twin-engined fighter aircraft in advance, at a high altitude over the intended bombing target area, to clear the air of enemy fighters before the bombers arrived.

In fact, when used in that way, the Messerschmitt Bf 110 was quite successful. Actually, the Bf 110 appears to have had a better ratio of shot down enemy aircraft to own combat losses than any other fighter type during the Battle of Britain. Yet in most accounts of the Battle of Britain, the accomplishments of the Bf 110 have been nearly totally neglected (although admittedly this is largely a result of the inaccessibility of sources on this aircraft). Investigations of the available material have enabled a completely different picture to be drawn of the Bf 110 during the Battle of Britain.

Bf 110 fighter units sustained some very heavy losses on various occasions. In most cases, however, this was when the Bf 110 fighters were ordered to fly slow, close-escort missions to German bombers. In those cases, there was no difference between what the Bf 110 suffered and what the Bf 109 suffered. There are numerous cases where Bf 109 units were absolutely thrashed by RAF fighters because they had to fly on foolishly slow close-escort missions. In this way, Bf 110-equipped I./ZG 26 lost six aircraft over the North Sea on 15 August 1940, just as Bf 109-equipped I./JG 77 lost five aircraft on 31 August 1940, to pick just two examples.

Myth 5: Göring despised the German fighters

Göring has been accused of advocating these slow-flying, close escort missions. In reality, as protocols from Luftwaffe conferences show, things were exactly the opposite. No one advocated the German fighters to be unleashed on free hunting – where they were most effective – more strongly than Hermann Göring. The people who ordered the fighters to fly these close-escort missions were the commanders at the English Channel.

Göring, in fact, favoured the fighter pilots, quite contrary to what many of them have stated after the war, and he heaped medals and awards on them as with no other pilots.

Myth 6: the German Bf 109 pilots were absolutely superior to the RAF’s fighter pilots

In recent years, it has been popular to revise the Battle of Britain in a way that gives the impression that the German Bf 109 pilots were absolutely superior to the RAF’s fighter pilots. Of course, some of the most experienced Luftwaffe pilots – such as Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders – had accumulated a far greater experience than most RAF pilots. But a comparison between British and German pilot training shows that they were of about equal standard.

What, however, is fairly clear when one compares RAF fighter pilots with German airmen during the Battle of Britain is that the RAF pilots generally fought with a greater stamina than many of their opponents. While it was not uncommon to see a dozen RAF pilots climb to intercept a many times larger German formation in their relatively obsolete Hurricanes, whole German bomber formations could jettison their bombs when RAF fighters appeared, or German fighter pilots would be satisfied with one gunnery run at a British formation. There also were several cases when RAF pilots deliberately rammed an enemy aircraft.

By comparing RAF fighter losses with the number of lost Bf 109s, some writers have in recent times drawn the erroneous conclusion that the Bf 109 units on average shot down two RAF planes for each own loss. By revealing the number of RAF aircraft that were shot down by Bf 110s, this conclusion proves to be utterly false.

The ‘revisionist’ version of the Battle of Britain, according to which the courage and efforts made by the RAF airmen is ‘exaggerated’, also does not stand up to scrutiny. It is beyond any doubt that without the unparalleled courage and efforts by ‘The Few’, and the contribution made by the RAF bomber crews, the Battle of Britain would not have been won.

Christer Bergström is the author of several highly acclaimed Second World War and aviation books, such as The Battle of Britain – an Epic Conflict Revisited (Casemate UK, 2015) and Black Cross/Red Star: Operation Barbarossa 1941 v. 1: The Air War Over the Eastern Front (Pacific Military History, 2000).

To find out more about the author, visit

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Friday, October 30, 2015

USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) - Inactivation Ceremony



SAN DIEGO (Oct. 21, 2015) The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) departs San Diego for the final time. Albuquerque held an inactivation ceremony Oct. 16 at Naval Base Point Loma, marking the submarine's final public event celebrating more than 32 years of naval service. Albuquerque is en route to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., to commence its inactivation process and eventual decommissioning. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom/Released)

The Pendleton Rescue By Captain W. Russell Webster, USCG

The following article appeared in the December 2001 Naval Institute Proceedings (Vol 127, pp. 66-69).

It has been 50 years since BM1 Bernard Webber and his all-volunteer crew of three ventured out over the Chatham, Massachusetts bar in a 36-foot wooden motorized lifeboat in 60-foot seas and 70-knot wind and rescued 32 crewmen from the stricken tank vessel Pendleton. Despite the passage of a half-century, memories, especially the horrific death of a thirty-third crewman during the rescue, are still vivid in the mind of the 73-year-old small boat coxswain.

This is a story of unparalleled heroism by a Coast Guard small boat crew.

Pendleton’s voyage.

The 503-foot, 10,448 gross ton tank vessel Pendleton (T2-SE-A1 or “T2”) was built by the Kaiser Company in 1944 and departed Baton Rouge, LA on February 12, 1952. It was laden with a full cargo of 122,000 barrels of kerosene and heating oil. The ship carried a crew of 41, including the master, Captain John Fitzgerald. Late on the evening of 17 February, Pendleton arrived off Boston. The weather was foul with extremely limited visibility. The captain opted to stand off and headed his vessel east-northeast at slow speed into Massachusetts Bay into the prevailing sea conditions. The wind and sea conditions worsened throughout the night, building into a full-scale ‘Nor’easter’ gale with snow and high seas. 2

A photo of the Pendletong rescue attempt, 1952.By 4:00 a.m. on February 18, Pendleton began shipping seas over her stern, but the vessel appeared to be riding well. Sometime after 4 a.m., the vessel rounded the tip of Cape Cod off Provincetown, MA and assumed a more southerly course. 3

(Left) The bow of the Pendleton.

At about 5:50 a.m. on 18 February, after a series of explosive cracking noises, the Pendleton took a heavy lurch and broke in two.4 At the time of the break, the vessel’s circuit breakers tripped, leaving the bow section without power. The stern section continued to operate normally, including all machinery and lighting.

Gone with the darkened bow section were the Captain and seven other crewmen, all destined to perish. In the stern, the Chief Engineer, Raymond Sybert, immediately took charge and mustered his 32 survivors and assigned them duties.

Alone, adrift, in mountainous seas, the stern section and its human cargo drifted south with a slight port list about six miles off Cape Cod. The bow section also drifted south, but at a further distance offshore. No S.O.S. had been issued.

The Rescue

February 18, 1952 saw the Coast Guard rescue a total of 70 men from two T2 tank vessels, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton. Both tankers split in half off Cape Cod. The T/V Mercer about 20 miles offshore, the T/V Pendleton about 10 miles. By noon on 18 February, there were four separate hulks adrift off Cape Cod. By mid-morning on February 18, the men at the Chatham Lifeboat Station (today known as Chatham Coast Guard Station) received word about the T/V Fort Mercer’s predicament. Orders were received for the station to launch a motorized lifeboat (MLB) to assist the Fort Mercer.

At noon, the station Officer in Charge, Bos’n Cluff, ordered BMC Donald Bangs to select his crew and man the CG-36383 MLB at Stage Harbor and proceed to assist the T/V Fort Mercer. At the time, BM1 Webber, chosen to remain behind for other duties, thought “My God, do they really think a lifeboat and its crew could actually make it that far out to sea in this storm and find the broken ship amid the blinding snow and raging seas with only a compass to guide them? If the crew of the lifeboat didn’t freeze to death first, how would they be able to get the men off the storm-tossed sections of the broken tanker?5 He would soon find out.

Shortly after Chief Bangs and his crew left to assist the Fort Mercer, BM1 Webber was ordered to the Chatham Old Harbor area where he and his crew would spend the next several hours helping local fishermen re-moor their fishing vessels which had been moved by the ongoing Nor’easter.

Back on the stern section of the Pendleton, Engineer Sybert’s crew sighted the beach at about two p.m. At 2:55 p.m., the Chatham Lifeboat Station’s (CLS)’ radar picked up two blips about five and a half miles distant. At 3:00 p.m., Bos’n Cluff visually sighted the bow section of the Pendleton. Cluff’s report to the Boston regional Coast Guard headquarters caused Coast Guard PBY aircraft No. 1242 to be diverted from ongoing rescue operations further offshore involving the Fort Mercer. Shortly after 4 p.m., the PBY made the first positive identification of both sections of the Pendleton. The Coast Guard now knew for the first time it had two stricken T2 tankers and four different possible rescue situations.6

Bos’n Cluff’s initial reaction was to dispatch his remaining crew, including BM1 Webber, to the North Beach area (between Orleans and Chatham) in hopes they could render assistance to Pendleton’screw if either section of the vessel came ashore. It soon became apparent that neither section would come ashore there and the crew returned to the station to prepare to use the CG-36500 MLB to render aid.

The Pendleton’s stern section and its crew of 33 drifted close to shore. Close enough that local residents could occasionally hear the ship’s whistle and see the vessel as it “galloped along up and down huge waves, frothing each time it rose or settled back into the sea.

Bos’n Cluff then ordered, “Webber, pick yourself a crew. Ya-all got to take the 36500 out over the bar and assist that thar ship, ya-heah?” With great trepidation having seen the conditions offshore and knowing his likely fate, but understanding his duty, he replied, “Yes sir, Mr. Cluff, I’ll get ready.”7 It was time to choose his crew. Only three men were available, since “other crew members had made themselves scarce when they heard that CG-36500 was to be sent.” 8

All three quickly volunteered. BM1 Webber’s volunteers included the station’s junior engineer, Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald, Seaman Richard Livesey, and a crewman from the nearby Stonehorse Light Ship, Seaman Irving Maske, who had been waiting for transportation back to his lightship.

At about 5:30 p.m., as BM1 Webber and his crew readied their dory to row out to the CG-36500 MLB, local fisherman and neighbor, John Stello, yelled out over the din: “You guys better get lost before you get too far out.”9 Webber knew all too well what his friend was suggesting. Go out and probably die or get lost and live other days to talk about it. Webber asked Stello to call his wife Miriam, who had been alone and sick at home for two days, and let her know about the rescue attempt.

At 5:55 p.m., Webber and his last-minute-crew left the pier in their wooden 36-foot-long motorized lifeboat driven along by its single 90 horsepower gas engine.As coxswain Webber turned his lifeboat into the channel, he could see the station’s lights and hoped for a hasty recall. Hearing nothing, he radioed the station and received the curt response “Proceed as directed.”10

Back on the Pendletons stern, Engineer Sybert saw the stern section headed for grounding on Chatham’s bar and certain disaster. Sybert used the tanker’s engines to keep the tanker off the bar, but this only increased the vessel’s list and trim dangerously. When some of Sybert’s crew heard that a motor lifeboat from Chatham was on the way on their personal radios, efforts to maneuver the stern were stopped.

A photo of the Pendletong rescue attempt, 1952.As the CG-36500 approached Chatham’s bar, Webber and his crew began to sing Rock of Ages and Harbor Lights.11 Their voices were soon muffled by the thunderous roar of the ocean as it collided with the sand bar.

(Left) The stern of the tanker Pendleton.

As the CG-36500 crossed the bar, the boat was smashed by a mountain of a wave and thrown high in the air. The boat landed on its side between waves. The self-righting boat recovered quickly and was smote again, this time tons of seawater crashed over the boat breaking its windshield and flattening coxswain Webber.

Quickly scampering to his feet, Webber noticed the boat’s compass had been knocked off its mount. The cold, near hurricane force winds howled through the boat’s cockpit as Webber struggled to regain control and steer in to the towering waves.

The Pendleton’s engineer and his crew sensed their demise as the stern hulk hobby-horsed southward smashing bottom with each new series of waves. Although there were several Coast Guard cutters and the CG-36383 nearby, the fortunes of fate would only allow CG-36500 and her crew alone one attempt to save engineer Sybert’s men. Coxswain Webber finally brought CG-36500 across the bar and knew the water was deeper because the spacing between the waves had increased and so had the wave heights. Weather observations from nearby cutters involved in the Fort Mercer and Pendleton rescues indicated sea heights between 40 to 60 feet.13

Occasionally, the lifeboat’s engine would die out when the waves would roll the vessel so far over that the gasoline engine would lose its prime. Each time, engineer Fitzgerald would crawl into the cramped compartment to restart the main engine --- his efforts were rewarded with severe burns, bruises, the steady chug-chugging of the engine and the collective sighs of appreciation from his shipmates.

The boat proceeded roller coaster fashion as it slowly labored up one side of a huge wave and surfed down the backside, accelerating towards the trough. Coxswain Webber knew too much speed was not good and unchecked, would cause the boat’s bow to bury in the next wave and swamp the small vessel.14 The boat’s motion was so swift, coxswain Webber had to reverse the engine on the backside of each wave in order to slow it down. His first navigational waypoint was the nearby Pollock Rip Lightship, where Webber hoped to reorient himself and give his crew a breather in the lee of the larger vessel.

The weather and visibility worsened in freezing horizontal snow that lashed the coxswain’s face through the broken windshield. He wore no lifejacket in order to give himself the best chance to react and guide the vessel. After about an hour of struggling and fearing he had missed the lightship, coxswain Webber slowed the CG-36500 to a near standstill as he sensed, rather than saw, something ahead. He sent a crewman forward to energize the boat’s small searchlight. Within seconds, the light was on and a large wave lifted this crewman up and over the coxswain flat and carried him aft where he landed onboard, miraculously unhurt, with a thud.

Creeping the boat forward, the searchlight soon revealed a pitch black mass of twisted metal, which heaved high in the air upon the massive waves and then settled back down in a “frothing mass of foam.” Each movement of the giant hulk produced a cacophony of eerie groans as the broken ship twisted and strained in the 60-foot seas. No lights were apparent as coxswain Webber maneuvered the small boat aft along the port side of the Pendleton’s stern section.

Rounding the stern, CG-36500’s searchlight illuminated the word PENDELTON and moments later, the larger vessel’s own deck lights became apparent. And, then a small figure above began frantically waving his arms! He soon disappeared. Coxswain Webber then saw a mass of people begin to line Pendleton’s starboard stern area, many shouting muffled instruction, which were unintelligible over the wind and crashing seas. He looked upon their position as “inviting” relative to his own and thought of strategies for he and his crew to join them above.16

Without notice, a Jacob’s ladder was tossed over the side, and unbelievably, men began to start down the ladder like a procession of ants! The first man at the bottom was dunked in the water like a tea bag and then lifted 50 feet in the air as the Pendleton rolled and heaved. Webber sent his crew forward to assist.

Coxswain Webber skillfully maneuvered the CG-36500 along the Pendleton’s starboard quarter and, one by one, the Pendleton survivors either jumped and crashed hard on the tiny boat’s bow or fell in to the sea, where Webber’s crew assisted them onboard at great personal risk. Some Pendletoncrewmen were sling-shotted out from the ship on the Jacob’s ladder by the whipping and rolling motion of the waves. As soon as they had reached their zenith of flight, the ship would snap roll them back violently and slam them against the side of the Pendleton.

After multiple approaches and 20 survivors safely recovered, the CG-36500 began to handle sluggishly. The human parade continued to descend unabated. There was no turning back as coxswain Webber arrived at yet another defining moment and made the decision that they would all live or they all would die.17 And, so it went as Webber and his crew literally stuffed their human cargo aboard and risked life and limb again and again. Finally, with 32 survivors onboard the CG-36500there only remained the 300-pound giant of a man George (Tiny) Myers, the inspiration of the Pendleton crew for his personal heroics, suspended at the bottom of the ladder. Myers had distinguished himself by his unselfish attitude in helping the other 32 crewmen before considering his own situation.

Myers jumped too soon and was swallowed up by the sea. Moments later, he was again visible underneath the stern of the vessel, clinging to one of Pendleton’s 11-foot-long propeller blades. Easing ahead cautiously, Webber felt the stern of the small boat rise as a monstrous wave overtook CG-36500. The boat was driven ahead faster and faster towards Myers. Coxswain Webber backed his small craft’s engine hard, but the boat smashed into Pendleton and Tiny Myers. The CG-36500was ejected from underneath the Pendleton by another large wave just as the hulk was lifted one last time and rolled over and sank.

All was again dark as the CG-36500’s searchlight was extinguished. Coxswain Webber was sick at the thought of losing Tiny Myers, but knew the fate of the 36 men on his small boat rested exclusively in his hands. Lost with no compass to steer by and in zero visibility conditions, there were just two choices. Head east into the seas and hope to survive 10-12 more hours until a new day’s light brought the slim chance of transferring passengers yet again to a larger rescue ship. Or, put the wind and seas on the small boat’s stern and let them force the vessel ashore someplace where help might be nearby.

Coxswain Webber then tried his radio again and received an immediate acknowledgement. Once he briefed his superior that he had 32 Pendleton survivors aboard, there ensued a squabble between the nearby CG cutter McCulloch and the Chatham Lifeboat Station about various options. These included a suggestion of an at-sea rendezvous with McCulloch and a second transfer of survivors! The radio was quickly turned off and Webber devised a plan to beach the CG-36500 at first opportunity. The small vessel would be held on the beach as long as possible with the engine while the survivors clambered ashore. On cue, the Pendleton crew gave a cheer of approval and support and on they went. Very soon, a red flashing light appeared! And, the boat’s searchlight incredibly revealed the buoy that marked the turn to the entrance to Old Harbor, Chatham and safe water!

A photo of the Pendleton rescue by the USCG

Webber and his crew arrive back safely at their base with 32 of the Pendleton's survivors on board the Coast Guard motor lifeboat. EN3 Andrew Fitzgerald is on the bow ready to handle the tie up at the pier. Photo by Richard C. Kelsey, Chatham, Mass. Photo credit: Cape Cod Community College.

Photo of the Pendleton rescue by USCGA quick call to the station was met with excitement and elation for now everyone knew that the rescued were now survivors! Soon, another stream of over-direction and gibberish caused coxswain Webber to secure the radio after requesting assistance with the survivors at the fish pier. A crowd of Chatham men, women and children met the CG-36500 at the pier, securing lines and helping the shocked, excited and in some cases, sobbing survivors and rescuers ashore.

(Left) Relief shows on the faces of the weary Coast Guard rescuers. SN Irving Maske (foreground) and BM1 Bernard Webber in the coxswain's flat on board the CG-36500. Photo by Richard C. Kelsey, Chatham, Mass. Photo credit: Cape Cod Community College.

Coxswain Webber saw his friend and fisherman John Stello once again and inquired about what the sick Miriam Webber had said when she learned of the CG3-6500’s return? Stello replied that he had told Webber’s wife Miriam that Webber was a hero, but she was too ill to comprehend. Webber would not make it home for several days even though he lived just five minutes from the station.21

In a message to the Chatham Lifeboat Station the day after the rescue, Rear Admiral H. G. Bradbury, Commander of the First CG District, sent his personal congratulations to BM1 Webber and his crew for their “outstanding seamanship and utter disregard of your own safety in crossing the hazardous waters of Chatham bar in mountainous seas extreme darkness and falling snow during a violent winter gale to rescue from imminent death thirty two crewmembers… minutes before the tanker capsized.”22

BM1 Bernard C. Webber, USCG of Chatham, Massachusetts, and his three volunteer crew members all received the Treasury department’s coveted Gold Lifesaving Medal for “extreme and heroic daring” during the Pendleton rescue.23

A photo of the Pendleton rescue attempt, 1952.

Another view of the Coast Guard crew and the rescued Pendleton sailors as they disembark from CG-36500.
Photo credit: Cape Cod Community College.

A photo of the Pendletong rescue attempt, 1952.

The original caption stated: "Rescuers discuss the rescue. Left to right are Coast Guardsmen Bernard Webber, who piloted the rescue boat; Engineman second class Andrew Fitzgerald, Seaman Richard Livesey and Seaman Irving Maske. Photo by Richard Kelsey, Chatham."

Photo credit: Cape Cod Community College.

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