The four young Coast Guard sailors faced a "suicide mission," steering their small wooden boat into 80-foot waves and a blinding nor'easter in a bid to reach 84 men clinging to the broken hulls of two World War II-era tankers five miles off the coast of Massachusetts.
Their 36-foot lifeboat, known as CG-36500, tossed like a corked bottle — its windshield shattered and compass ripped from its mounts — as the four pressed on toward the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton in the evening hours of Feb. 18, 1952, with little reason to believe they'd ever make it back to dry land.
Some 62 years later, their rescue of dozens using little more than a dinghy stands as the Coast Guard's most daring small boat rescue ever, ranking alongside the heralded wartime efforts of America's bravest soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.
"This is definitely in the top five most important rescues in U.S. Coast Guard history," deputy Coast Guard historian Scott Price told FoxNews.com. "I can't think of anyone who isn't moved by their heroism."