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The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue
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The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,040 ratings  ·  607 reviews
In the winter of 1952, New England was battered by the most brutal nor'easter in years. As the weather wreaked havoc on land, the freezing Atlantic became a wind-whipped zone of peril.

In the early hours of Monday, February 18, while the storm raged, two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, found themselves in the same horrifying predicament. Built with "dirty st
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Hardcover, 197 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Scribner Book Company (first published 2007)
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Pamela You should have tried the audiobook. It's quick and good (don't trust the movie, it only tells half the story- signed the person who watched To Have…moreYou should have tried the audiobook. It's quick and good (don't trust the movie, it only tells half the story- signed the person who watched To Have and To Have Not with Bogie and Bacall instead of reading the book which is totally different!) (less)
Aprilleigh The children's editions reduced the number of individuals directly discussed in the book and it removed the sections detailing things like how the oil…moreThe children's editions reduced the number of individuals directly discussed in the book and it removed the sections detailing things like how the oil tankers were constructed.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.83  · 
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Jason FitzGerald
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it
This feels like the type of typical "local lore" story that fills small book shops across the Vacationland of Cape Cod. The authors all mean well - - because they have extraordinary history to tell. This is no exception. The tale of near-simultaneous tanker accidents in the middle of a deadly February Nor'easter is hair raising no matter who is telling it. Admittedly, I tore through it in 2 sessions and enjoyed it very much. When ordinary men do what has to be done at great peril, their heroism ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-have
Four separate Coast Guard lifeboats descend on 2 oil tankers in the North Atlantic Sea which have broken in two due to poor craftsmanship during World War II. Both pieces of the tanker Pendleton and both pieces of the Fort Mercer have crew on board. Depending on the broken section, some have radio contact, some have heat and lights, others are adrift on a ragged portion of a tanker without any means of communication or comfort.
The day was February 12, 1952. There was a nor'eastern blowing snow
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JonathanT
This was pretty fascinating! It had a lot more depth than the movie did (I mean obviously xD). I loved all the interesting historical facts that were thrown into the narrative. Plus, knowing that this is a true story somehow makes it so much more fascinating.

However, as much as I DID like it, I had a hard time keeping the various names (both of people and of boats lol) straight. I blame this more on my blond brain than I do on the book itself, but it still was a downside for me.

Plus the book c
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Scott  Hitchcock
2.5*'s.

If it wasn't for the fact I'm from the region where the story took place and know every single lighthouse, harbor, city, town, road and nearly every building mentioned in detail I'm not sure I would have liked this book at all. It's basically an audio documentary but I've read a lot in this style and this one was pretty boring.

I think you need to be a nautical buff or from southern Massachusetts or preferably both to enjoy this one.
Corey Butler
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I thought as an overall this book was pretty good but I definitely think that part 1 was better than part 2. In part 1 it had more action and was better. This is one of the few times that I thought the movie was better tan the book because I saw the movie and I got more out of it like how it would feel if I was in that situation, on the ship or rescuing the people from the ship, but the book didn't have enough description but I still liked it.
Andrea Cox
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
by Andrea Renee Cox

What an amazing story! The Finest Hours recounts the true story of the most daring sea rescue in US Coast Guard history. This book completely blew me away with how two large tankers split in half during a huge winter storm, and the heroic rescue efforts that were made during horrible weather conditions. A must-read!

Thank you to the US Coast Guardsmen who put their lives on the line during that rescue mission, and countless others throughout the decades since. Your work does no
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Amber ☾♥
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites, own
First off, what an incredibly heart wrenching story. I vaguely remember learning something about this at some point in my life but being completely immersed in every vivid detail of each event made it way more real. Reading something like this, feeling the terror and death surrounding the characters, and then realizing they are not "characters" but actual people who have lived through said events makes the experience way more...meaningful.

The only thing I can say that caused me to dock a star wa
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Tricia Mingerink
This book is a well-written, easy to read (and listen to) non fiction. The narrator for the audiobook does a really good job, and even though it is non-fiction, it is just as gripping and heart-pounding as a fiction book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in history, especially American history. This is a true story of reluctant heroes.
Christine
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. Tougias does an excellent job of relating the Coast Guard rescue of two tankers which both broke in half during a huge storm. While in audio format, it is a little difficult to keep some of the men straight ( I had to backtrack a few times), it is still an engaging story. I like how Tourgias took it in into the modern era.
Shawn Deal
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A fascinating piece of history this book goes into detail the events of this rescue. Where the read might be dry in parts, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Martin Hill
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to confess up front, I'm a bit biased about this book. The Finest Hours is about one of the most dangerous rescue missions in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, and I spent 13 years of active and reserve duty in the Coast Guard. Moreover, this book focuses on the exploits of four men who were members of my part of the Coast Guard—the Boat Force, those Coasties serving in small boats who "have to go out, but don't have to come back."

On February 18, 1952, two WWII-era T2 oil tankers brok
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RJ
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very straightforward, no-frills telling of the Coast Guard rescue of several crewmembers of two merchant vessels that both broke in half during the same storm in 1952. It's not clear which is more astonishing: the lengths the Coasties went to in order to save lives (braving 70 foot waves in 36 foot boats) or their humility afterwards with respects to their heroic deeds. The account was well-researched with some recent interviews of survivors and a few photos, but overall a little on th ...more
Becky
May 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I normally love Tougias. I will be the first to admit that he is a great researcher, but only a decent writer. Usually, however, his stories are so fast paced and terrifying (since they're all true) that I just tear through the books. Theyre the sort of book that you read in one day, enthralled on the couch- or in a tent because its pouring outside :D

But this one, this one was scattered for Tougias, who normally weaves multiple storylines in much more coherently. I found the story to be jumping
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Suzan
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was pulled into the drama almost immediately! A great recounting of 3 days in the winter of 1952 when brave coast guardsmen simply "did the job" and rescued dozens from 2 ship wrecks. It was fascinating to read how they were able to pull it off, with little to no technology and in seas that rival the scene of the small fishing boat climbing a tower of water in the perfect storm. Read the book - the pictures at the end cannot do the ordeal justice. Congratulations to local writer Michael Tougia ...more
Eddie
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-read, 2015
If this was a triller novel you might of said this is crazy but it was history. This happen to people and both rescues were just incredible. The Coast Guard. The movie is coming but read this book, I put off reading this, what a mistake.
Lis Carey
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In February 1952, New England was being battered by one of the worst nor'easters in years, and two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, both broke in two.

The two tankers were both built of "dirty steel," and were welded, not riveted. Both things made them more brittle and more at risk of precisely the disaster that befell them both. The dozens of men on each ship were at risk, especially given that both halves of each ship were at risk of capsizing. Rescuing them was not a job for ama
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Shiloah
I enjoyed this book with my sweetie! We both loved the excellent story-telling. It’s amazing how much you learn from books, especially true stories. We spent a great deal of time learning about the Coast Guard, the Sea, ships, and especially the heroic actions of brave men. Wonderful, inspiring book.
Doreen
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sara, Diane, Kate, Nick, Matt
Recommended to Doreen by: saw it at the library
In February 1952, three low pressure systems combined with a system from New Jersey to create a storm like never before. The system stalled over Nantucket, wreaking havoc on those unfortunate enough to be on the sea. Not one, but two ships, the 'Pendleton' and the 'Fort Mercer', had each split as a result of powerful waves and weakened hulls. The fates of the crews depended upon the actions of the Coast Guard.

The story covers the history of Chatham, dating back to the Monomoyick Native Americans
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David
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Coasties, merchant mariners, perfect stormers
I wanted this book to be more interesting than it was. I usually enjoy these tales of harrowing survival in hostile environments, whether it be on the slopes of Mount Everest, the wilds of Alaska, or the Arctic seas. The Finest Hours is about four Coast Guardsmen who ventured out into a New England storm in 1952 to save the crews of two tankers that cracked up in the waves.

It is a harrowing and heroic story, but it was also a fairly straightforward one. The Pendleton and the Fort Mercer were bot
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Laura
The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

Pamela
“O Lord, have mercy, Thy sea is so large, and my boat is so small.” – Breton Fisherman’s Prayer

The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue: one of the finest unpretentious examples honoring uncommon valor in darkest hours of tempest seas and memorializing those who never made shore.

February 18, 1952: Two commercial fuel tankers, the “Pendleton” and the “Fort Mercer”- caught in one of the worst nor’easter storms to hit the eastern seaboard – snapped in half,
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Elizabeth
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It’s the winter of 1952 and a ferocious Nor’easter is pounding New England with howling winds and seventy-foot seas. Two oil tankers get caught in the violent storm off Cape Cod, its fury splitting the massive ships in two. Back on shore, four young Coast Guardsmen are issued a suicide mission: save the lives of the stranded seamen. Sailing a tiny lifeboat into the teeth of the killer storm, the rescue crew soon loses all navigation. With no idea where the stranded seaman are nor how to get back ...more
Gabi
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an amazing (almost unreal) true rescue story. Who knew boats split in half and that cold water can kill people so fast?
Cindy
Before The Perfect Storm, there was similar storm in New England in the early 50s that contributed to not one, but two, tankers splitting in two. These WWII tankers had been hastily made with 'dirty steel' and were not made to withstand the 60 and 70 foot waves and bitter cold of the Nor'Easter. Against this, the US Coast Guard sent out 36 foot lifeboats in a heroic attempt to rescue the men from the broken halves of the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer. The Coast Guard boats were trying to rescue ...more
C.P. Cabaniss
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
My sister and I finally finished listening to this. We were on a longish road trip and I decided it was time to force her into finishing.

I really enjoy the history of this and learning more about the Coast Guard and some of the people who have served, but the way the story was told didn't work well for me. It might have worked better if I had been reading the physical version, but I still think the way it was structured was odd.

Sometimes it seems that authors of historical texts throw in stori
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Nathan
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-04-april
It was good. Well written and it would make a good movie. The chapter on Chatham's history felt like padding for length, but I wasn't sad it was there. I would have liked it better if it were more narrative...to the point of being fiction. There was room for a lot more dramatic tension with a more character-driven style. Maybe someone will write a novel...
Perri
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it

Some parts of this book were SO exciting and some parts really dragged. The heroism of the Coast Guard was indeed uplifting , but the follow- up sections and inquiry .. snore. Here's one of the few times I think I'd have preferred an abridged version. Now I've given myself the green light to watch the film and I'll bet it focuses on the action.
Mimi
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
As I read this book, I wondered if there are people still like this today. Are there still people like these Coast Guards who will risk their lives for complete strangers? Then I listened to the news, and amidst lots of awfulness, there are stories of people who risked everything for strangers, and it gives me hope for mankind.

This book follows the true events of 1952 when two oil tankers are caught in a terrible, terrible storm and literally split in half. Four halves of huge boats were floatin
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♥ Marlene♥
Okay this is supposed to be another most daring sea rescue. Let's find out if it is true. The other book I read about the great work of the coast guard's was a very well written book:
Frozen in Time An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff Hope this is another good book.

It is quite intriguing to realise what scary work the coast guards have to do sometimes. You do hear or read about the navy or the air force but less so over the coast guards so I like that this book shows their bravery.
Have read about 1/5th so far and in the beginning you get a lot
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Kara
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The event itself when, in 1952, a blizzard at sea lead to an everything-has-gone-wrong moment, and the dramatic, heroic, harrowing rescue by the U.S. Guard, is fascinating reading to see find out what ordinary humans can do when they push themselves against impossible odds.

the writing itself was a bit choppy (no pun intended) as the authors jump in time back and forth from the night itself to the larger context of the boats, the industry, the Coast Guard, the environmental history of the area, a
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Adventure is the theme that runs through most of my books, from outdoors titles (The Connecticut River from Source to Sea, Exploring the Hidden Charles) to fiction (Until I Have No Country) to nonfiction sea rescues (Overboard! A Storm Too Soon, Rescue of the Bounty).
One of my current adventures is waiting to see if Disney will begin filming a movie-length version of the Coast Guard rescue book Th
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“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us. —Thomas Paine” 4 likes
“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history. —George Bernard Shaw” 2 likes
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