Waves as high as 60 feet pounded the U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat CG-36500 as it slowly made its way to the S.S. Pendleton, its stern section grounded on a sand bar off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., 63 years ago.
Engineman Second Class Andy Fitzgerald, along with three others, were on board the wooden lifeboat trying to accomplish what the Coast Guard later called the most daring and heroic rescue of 32 sailors from that ship, broken in half by the extreme storm conditions.
Sunday, Fitzgerald was honored by Disneyland at its Flag Retreat Ceremony.
"We had a job to do and we did it," he said after the ceremony.
During the trip out to the stricken ship, Fitzgerald received several burns as he scrambled to keep the 36-foot wooden lifeboat's engine running in the driving wind and rain, even as water from the high waves would frequently kill the engine -- attempting to thwart their rescue attempt.
But even with those driving seas, Fitzgerald said he was glad to be part of the service that he joined at the age of 18..
"In other services, people are trained to kill people," he said. "The Coast Guard's trained to save people, so I thought that would be a better way to go.
The story of Fitzgerald and his three shipmates, Coxswain Bernard Webber (in command of the lifeboat), Seaman Irving Maske and Seaman Richard Livesey, is being told in a new movie, "The Finest Hours," which will premiere next week.
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This article was written by MARK EADES from Orange County Register and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.