TILTON — On Feb. 18, 1952, two oil tankers split in half a few miles apart during a nor’easter just off the coast of Cape Cod, setting the stage for a life-and-death drama of heroism, survival and tragic mistakes. Of the 84 seamen aboard the tankers, 70 would be rescued and 14 would lose their lives.
The rescue of the crewmen trapped on those severed bows and sterns is the subject of the book “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue.”
On Monday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m., New York Times bestselling author Michael Tougias, who co-authored the book, will be at the New Hampshire Veterans Home with a slide presentation about the book, which was the basis for the 2016 Disney movie “Finest Hours,” starring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck.
Tougias will use slides depicting the storm, the sinking tankers — the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, the rescues, the victims, the survivors and the heroes to tell the story of this historic event.
He’ll describe the harrowing attempts to rescue the seamen, especially focusing on four young Coast Guardsmen who faced 70-foot waves, blinding snow and dangerous shoals in their efforts to save the lives of 32 crewmen stranded aboard the stern of the Pendleton.
Tougias will also discuss the making of the movie and will share some stories about the actors and his cameo in the movie.
“I enjoy doing these programs,” says Tougias, “because I like to transport the audience into the heart of the storm so that they ask themselves, ‘What would I have done?’ I don’t like to do author readings because I think they are boring, but with a slide presentation, the viewer can visually relive the adventure.”
“This event was — and still is — the greatest and most daring sea rescue ever performed by the Coast Guard, and it happened right here off the New England coast. I felt this episode of heroism and tragedy needed to be told in its entirety because it’s an important piece of overlooked history,” Tougias said.
A book signing will follow the program at the Veterans Home, located at 139 Winter St., Tilton. The event is free, open to the public, suitable for all ages, and made possible by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities. Tougias is the author and co-author of 29 books, including “Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea.” His previous book, “Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do,” was selected by the American Library Association as one of the top books of the year. Tougias has also co-written a book about the Cuban Missile Crisis titled “Above & Beyond.” More information is available at www.michaeltougias.com.