Andy Fitzgerald had a purpose in hanging around the Coast Guard station in plain sight.

“I was the lowest class engine man there, and I didn’t get to go out too much,” he recalled. “I’d never really been out in a rescue of any size where you’re really rescuing people’s lives when they were really in danger.”

“I was really trying to figure out how to go on that rescue,” he added.

Fitzgerald got what he wished for, and more, when he volunteered to be the boat engineer to rescue men off a stricken tanker on Feb. 18, 1952. He and the three other Coast Guardsmen on the CG36500 were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the Coast Guard’s highest honor for plucking 32 men off the SS Pendleton.

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