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Retired Coast Guardsman Recalls Daring Rescue Off Cape Cod In 'The Finest Hours'

BOSTON (CBS) -- Melvin Gouthro is 84 years old, but in February of 1952, he was a 21-year-old US Coast Guardsman stationed in Chatham, when a fierce winter storm broke apart a 550-foot tanker with 32 crewmen on board.

Coast Guardman Melvin Gouthro
Retired US Coast Guardsman Melvin Gouthro (WBZ-TV)

So, the Coast Guard sent four young men into the teeth of the storm in a 36-foot wooden boat to rescue the crew.

"The boat was supposed to hold a maximum of 12, but when the boss says go, you go," Gouthro told WBZ.

It's been called the most heroic and daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard, and it's now been made into a movie called "The Finest Hours."

Coast Guard Melvin Gouthro
US Coast Guardsman Melvin Gouthro (WBZ-TV)

Gouthro would've been the engineer on the rescue but he was sick. So, his friend, Andy Fitzgerald, went in his place.

"When Andy got back, we asked him how bad it was and he said 'I forgot to go to the bathroom first!'" Gouthro said with a chuckle.

The Coast Guardsmen fought through 50-foot seas to rescue the stranded sailors after their tanker had broken in half.

Andy told his Gouthro the last guy off the tanker had almost given up.

"He seemed to quit, so Andy grabbed his arm and had to pull him into the boat," he said.


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