Thursday, June 30, 2016

27 Years as a National Historic Landmark

"This Day in History"

June 30, 1989

National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.  Today, just over 2,500 historic buildings, sites, structures, objects, or districts bear this national distinction. 

National Historic Landmarks are designated because they are:
                Sites where events of national historical significance occurred;
                Places where prominent persons lived or worked;
                Icons of ideals that shaped the nation;
                Outstanding examples of design or construction;
                Places characterizing a way of life; or
                Archeological sites able to yield information.

The State of Arkansas currently has 18 National Historic Landmarks; including Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Little Rock Central High School, Parkin Indian Mound, and Rohwer Relocation Center Memorial Cemetery.  The 18th landmark brought into the state was on November 23, 2015, Hoga (YT 146). 

Hoga (YT 146) is a United States Navy Woban-class district harbor tug.  The tug was placed into service on May 22, 1941; assigned to the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  On December 7, 1941, Hoga was moored with other yard service craft near the drydocks when the attack began.  Hoga was underway within ten minutes of the first strike by the Japanese.  The tug extinguished fires on burning battleships and other vessels in the harbor and rescued wounded seamen from the oily waters.

“Hoga particularly distinguished herself through her crew’s actions in helping beach the burning and sinking battleship USS Nevada at Hospital Point as her run for the open sea was aborted by Japanese bombers who intended to sink her [the battleship] in the channel and block Pearl Harbor.” -- Application for National Historic Landmark Status

June 30, 1989, while Hoga served in the Oakland Fire Department, she was awarded the status of National Historic Landmark for her efforts in Pearl Harbor.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

75th Anniversary of Hoga's Launch

"This Day in History"

December 31, 1940

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is starting our 75th Anniversary series of World War II events in 2016.  The blog will begin with Hoga's 75th Anniversary events.

Hoga at Consolidated Shipbuilding facility in Morris Heights, New York, undated.
Photograph courtesy of US National Archives.

Seventy-five years ago today, a Woban Class District Harbor Tug YT-146 was launched.  The Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation in Morris Heights, New York, built the tug known as Hoga along with three other tug boats.  

Hoga is 100 feel long, a beam of 25 feet, and a draft of 9 feet, 7 inches.  The boat's displacement is 218 tons and uses one propeller and two diesel engines to propel the boat to 12 knots.  This yard tug is typical of hundreds of World War II-era naval service craft.

Coming Soon: Visitors will be able to walk aboard the main deck of USS Hoga, the last surviving Naval vessel from the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Preservation on the boat's interior is happening now. You can help the museum open these areas to the general public by making a tax-deductible donation at  

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hoga's Saga

"Museum Updates"

Two thousand and fifteen was a big year for the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, the City of North Little Rock, the State of Arkansas, and to all who are interested in national history.  On July 28, 2005, the U.S. Navy officially transferred Hoga to the City of North Little Rock to be a permanent exhibit.  November 23, 2015, Hoga arrived at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.  Why is this so important?

USS Hoga at sea trials, 1941.
Photograph courtesey of the United States Navy.
USS Hoga (YT 146)

The United States Navy yard tug Hoga is typical of hundreds of World War II-era naval service craft. This Woban Class District Harbor Tug was built in Morris Heights, New York, by the Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation in 1940.  Hoga was placed into service with the U. S. Navy on May 22, 1941, and allocated to the 14th Naval District at the Naval Station in Pearl Harbor.

USS Hoga at the Pearl Harbor Attack

USS Hoga assisting USS Nevada on 12-07-1941.
Photograph courtesy of National Archives.
Hoga, is of exceptional significance in American history; Hoga is one of two known surviving yard craft present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941.  While not engaged in combatting the enemy, the yard craft performed heroic service, fighting fires on burning battleships and other vessels in the harbor and rescuing wounded sailors from the oily waters of Battleship Row.

Hoga, particularly distinguished herself through her crew’s actions in helping beach the burning and sinking battleship USS Nevada at Hospital Point, as her run for the open sea was aborted by Japanese bombers intending to sink her in the channel and block access to Pearl Harbor. 

USS Hoga fighting fires on Battleship Row on 12-07-1941.
Photograph courtesy of National Archives.
Hoga also pushed the repair ship USS Vestal away from USS Arizona's burning hull and assisted the damaged minesweeper USS Oglala. In all, Hoga spent 72 continuous hours fighting fires on USS Maryland, USS Tennessee, USS Arizona and others.  Hoga, her commanding officer, and the crew received a commendation from Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.

USS Hoga during World War II

On December 7, 1941, eleven ships were sunk and nine ships were damaged in Pearl Harbor.  In the weeks following the attack, a great deal of repair work was done by the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard.  Hoga, her sister yard tugs, and support craft worked hard assisting in the salvage, refitting, and repairing of damaged vessels.

Despite the damage that had been done by the Japanese attack, Pearl Harbor remained an active naval base. The yard tugs, such as Hoga, moved ships in and out of Pearl Harbor throughout the war.

USS Hoga Serving the Port of Oakland

Port of Oakland, Oakland fireboat, 1957.
Photograph courtesy of Oakland Public Library.
In 1948, Hoga was transferred on loan to the Port of Oakland for use as a fireboat.  The re-christened Port of Oakland (later changed to City of Oakland) entered service in July 1948.  She was modified to increase her fire-fighting capability.  As an Oakland fireboat, the vessel combated numerous shipboard fires, waterfront blazes, and rescued persons in the water.  City of Oakland served as a tour boat for President Jimmy Carter during a 35-minute tour of the port on July 3, 1980. 

City of Oakland, Oakland fireboat, circa 1980.
Photograph courtesy of Oakland Fire Department.

Hoga received National Landmark Status on June 30, 1989, while still serving as the fireboat City of Oakland. After 45 years in the Oakland Fire Department, Hoga was returned to the United States Navy in 1994.  From there she was moved to the Maritime Administration’s Suisan Bay Reserve Fleet.  Hoga was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1996.

USS Hoga Restoration

USS Hoga 2012.

Restoration work was performed on Hoga between 2012 and 2014, while docked at Mare Island Ship Yard, Vallejo, California.  Major repairs were made to Hoga’s hull and boat deck to ensure water tight integrity.  Firefighting equipment and non-original external piping added during the 1948 refit was removed.  Old paint was removed by hydro-blasting, and Hoga was re-painted; restoring the ship, as close as possible, to her original appearance.  

USS Hoga 2014.

USS Hoga’s Journey to North Little Rock

USS Hoga's transport from San Francisco to San Diego.
Video courtesy of Patrick Hays.

Hoga was towed from San Francisco to San Diego by the tug A. N. Tillett from Pacific Tugboat Service on September 25, 2015.  Then on October 1, 2015, Tillett transported Hoga to Ensenada, Mexico.  

USS Hoga being heavy lifted by Peters and May.

USS Hoga transported through the Panama Canal.
Once in Ensenada a boat transport company, Peters and May Global Marine Transport, agreed to carry Hoga to the gulf. Thorco Isadora, a carrier ship, lifted Hoga onto its deck and carried the little tug from Ensenada to the gulf, traveling through the Panama Canal on October 15, 2015. 

Thorco Isadora stopped in Fort Lauderdale to drop off cargo, was delayed in New Orleans, and then offloaded Hoga in Houston on November 7, 2015. 

USS Hoga on the Arkansas River.
Photograph courtesy of James D. Hayes.
 Hard’s Marine Service used their tug, Martha Renae, to move Hoga from Houston to New Orleans from November 11-13, 2015.  The Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company transported Hoga up the Mississippi River on November 17, 2015, with their tug Jake West.  Once in the Arkansas River, Bruce Oakley Inc.’s subsidiary Jantran Inc. moved Hoga into North Little Rock with their tug Brother Wilson on November 23, 2015.
USS Hoga arriving at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.

USS Hoga's Ceremony
North Little Rock Police Honor Guard.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

On December 7, 2015, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum along with the Arkansas’s Secretary of State’s Office held the Pearl Harbor Survivor Ceremony.  To honor the 74th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the State of Arkansas honored the last three surviving Arkansas Pearl Harbor survivors. 
Three Arkansas Pearl Harbor Survivors.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

Vic Snyder, AIMM Board Member.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.
North Little Rock Police Bugler.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

The ceremony was emceed by AIMM Board member Vic Snyder.  The North Little Rock Police Department Honor Guard posted the colors and provided a bugler player for the event.  Boy Scout Troop #198 from Mabelvale, Arkansas, lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.  

North Little Rock Community Concert Band.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

The North Little Rock Community Concert Band, directed by Ricco Belotti, volunteered their talents to perform the National Anthem and Arkansas Pearl Harbor Survivor March.  The Two Bell Ceremony in honor of those who served on December 7, 1941, was performed by the Fleet Reserve Association.  

Susan Hutchinson, First Lady of Arkansas.  Photograph courtesy of John Barr.
Speakers for the ceremony included First Lady of Arkansas Susan Hutchinson, Secretary of State Mark Martin, Mayor of North Little Rock Joe Smith, as well as AIMM Board members Patrick Hays and Major General Don Morrow.  

Secretary of State Mark Martin.  Photograph courtesy of John Barr.
Mayor Joe Smith, City of North Little Rock.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.
Patrick Hays, AIMM Board Member.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.
Major General Don Morrow, AIMM Board President.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

Ribbon Cutting to officially open USS Hoga for public viewing.
Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

The ceremony concluded with the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Ribbon Cutting.

Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

Following the Pearl Harbor Survivor ceremony, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum hosted a free day to board the main deck of USS Hoga.  

Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

The USSVI Razorback Base, which consists of submarine veterans from Central Arkansas, volunteered to assist the general public aboard USS Hoga.

Photograph courtesy of John Barr.

Refreshments following the ceremony were provided by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, United States Daughters of 1812 and Colonial Dames of the 17th Century.

Finally, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum board and staff want to give a big THANKS to all donors and supporters who were committed in bringing USS Hoga to Arkansas.

The next step is to move Hoga further up the Arkansas River to her permanent mooring location at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.  We are expecting this to happen at the beginning of 2016.  Once she is put into place, preservation work will continue on the boat's interior.  Preservation work is going to be completed based on EPA and historic preservation standards.  The museum is continuing to collect donations to complete the interior work that Hoga requires to become available to the general public.  

Support is welcomed through volunteer efforts and financial contributions.  Those interested in volunteering at the museum are asked to come by the museum and fill out a volunteer application.  The application will be forwarded to our Maintenance Chief at the museum.  Financial contributions can be made in many different ways: 
  1. In person during the museum's operating hours.
  2. A check made out to Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum designated for USS Hoga mailed to 120 Riverfront Park Drive, North Little Rock 72114.
  3. Paypal via the museum's website.
  4. Go Fund Me "Save the Hoga" account.
Once Hoga is opened to the public, the State of Arkansas will have the only place in the world where visitors can walk aboard a Navy vessel that served in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and a Navy vessel that was at the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan on September 2, 1945.  

Stay tuned for more updates!!

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Hoga! Hoga! Hoga! Hoga!

"Museum Update"

Ex-Navy tugboat, Hoga, arrived in North Little Rock, Arkansas, on Monday November 23, 2015.  Here are some images from that day!

Sorry Jim was out of town.

Stay tuned for more updates on Hoga.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Story of Evelyn Borden Usrey's Life!

"This Day in History"

September 22, 1924

Today, 91 years ago, Evelyn Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts.  She grew up during the Great Depression that gripped the country; in 1936, her father, Clinton, passed away.  Her mother, Edith, raised Evelyn along with her sister, Alice, and brothers, Charles, Ernest, and Robert.  Eventually Edith remarried.  In the 1940s, Evelyn's stepfather worked in a naval shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

"We had fun growing up.  We didn't have any money or anything, but we had fun.  But one thing we always had was the river or the ocean.  We could always go fishing."
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

December 7, 1941, Evelyn was home in the midst of her senior year of high school when World War II broke out in the United States. 

"We listened to the radio.  In our movies they had news reels.  And a group of us in high school used to get together and sew for the Red Cross to go overseas just before we were in the war.  So, we were all aware of what was going on, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a big shock."
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

She graduated from Somerset High School May of 1942 in Somerset, Massachusetts.  After she graduated from high school, Evelyn was told she had to help her family financially with two younger brothers still at home. So she moved to Kittery, Maine.

September 1942, Evelyn moved to Kittery, Maine, to work, as a civilian, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  The shipyard had almost 25,000 civilians working in the yards during World War II when over 70 submarines were constructed at the yard.  Evelyn worked in the Supply Department.  She was in charge of ensuring each submarine being constructed and submarines on patrol had the supplies that they required. 

USS Balao (SS 285) was the first submarine being built in Portsmouth when Evelyn arrived.  From her office window she watched the WAVES going into the submarines to build the boats. Note: WAVES were Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.  WAVES were the manpower behind building submarines during World War II.  The men were gone.  The few men that served in the shipyard were officers.  One of the officers gave her a tour of the submarine, Balao.  She remembers on this tour that they enjoyed coffee and cigarettes in the officers quarters.  

Evelyn stated, "After you've seen one, you've seen them all."  Her memories of the other submarines from Portsmouth seemed to blur together.  While, USS Razorback (SS 394) was built in Portsmouth, by 1944, Evelyn has supplied over 50 submarines, so she did not have any specific memories about Razorback.

One aspect of working in Portsmouth that Evelyn remembered fondly was that of commissioning parties held for the submarine crew members.  She remembers that these parties consisted of drinking, eating, and dancing.  The commissioning parties had good food, like butter, which was a high commodity during the food rationing of World War II.

"I never jitterbugged in my life, and neither did my date, but some of my friends dared us to get out there and get into the contest.  And we won! We just did our own thing.  It was fun." 
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

Evelyn also explained that they had barbecues, cookouts, and weenie roasts on the beach with Sailors and Marines, just not at the same time.  "The only way you mix a Marine and a Sailor is if they're both in the same family," according to Evelyn.  Also these dinners on the beach had to end before night fell.  Living on the coast, there were strict instructions about lighting after dark.  The town had to "blackout."  This included using blackout curtains before any lights could be turned on in the house.  The streetlights allowed only a small amount of light in a narrow area.  All of this prevented any enemy vessels from seeing the structures on the coast.

The "blackouts" were not the only thing in the shipyard work that reminded Evelyn that the United States was in the midst of war.  Evelyn remembers, spring of 1945, that while she was supplying submarines already serving in the war, there was one submarine that was sixty days overdue and presumed lost at sea.  Unfortunately, Evelyn's friend was married to a man aboard this submarine that was presumed lost.  Often, her friend requested information, and due to the sensitive information Evelyn was unable to tell her friend anything.  June of 1945, while Evelyn was close to a nervous breakdown due to her knowledge of this lost submarine, she left the shipyard to join the Navy.

Evelyn served as a civilian in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from September 1942 till June of 1945.  Little did she know that seventy years later she would be able to visit one of these Portsmouth submarines again.  The museum staff, volunteers, and former Razorback crew members were always happy to see Evelyn visit and enjoy her stories from the yards.  

September 3, 2015, Evelyn Borden Usrey went home to be with the Lord.  Everyone connected with the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum were very saddened with this news.  We were all so happy that we were able to have met and gotten to know Evelyn the last few years.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

N5R: On-Air Special Event November-Five-Romeo

"Museum Update"

September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015, the United States observed the 70th anniversary of the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan, marking the end of World War II.  Many people know that the documents of surrender were signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), in Tokyo Bay.

What is lesser known is that there were other Allied Navy ships in Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender.  There were 255 Allied ships in Tokyo Bay including ten battleships, forty-eight destroyers, and twelve submarines. Of the U.S. ships present at the surrender, four are currently museumships: USS Missouri (BB 63), USS Iowa (BB 61), USS Cavalla (SS 244), and USS Razorback (SS 394).

John, Don, and Joseph in the submarine's radio room.

A small group of hams conducted an on-air special event to commemorate this anniversary of the surrender from on board the submarine Razorback on September 2, 2015, from 12:00 through 22:00.
The special event call sign was November-Five-Romeo (N5R).  


The group of hams set up their equipment in the submarine's radio room and broadcast from the submarine's whip wire and antenna.  Throughout the broadcast the radio operators, John and Don, were able to successful connect with 39 people.  Connections were made with 18 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

A special thanks to John and Don for coming to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and hosting the On-Air Special!  Also, thank you Joseph Mathis for working as the AIMM staff member coordinating this great event.

Author: Allison Hiblong

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Benny's Peacemakers

"Submarine Honor Guard"

"Benny's Peacemakers"

“Cease offensive operations against Japanese forces.  Continue search and patrols.  Maintain defensive and internal security measures at highest level and beware of treachery or last moment attacks by enemy forces or individuals.” –Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations, August 14, 1945.

This message was sent to all United States naval units in the Pacific Fleet.  The commander of the Submarine Force Pacific Fleet, Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, then relayed the message to his submarines.

Excerpt from the diary of USS Razorback (SS 394) crew member Atkinson.  AIMM Permanent Collection.

August 30, 1945, twelve United States Navy submarines rendezvoused with task group “Benny’s Peacemakers” to participate in the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

"Benny" referred to Commander Raymond Henry "Benny" Bass.  Bass, a native Arkansan, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1931 and served in the United States Navy until 1959.  During World War II, Bass was a submarine commander throughout the war.  When the “Cease Fire” was given, Commander Bass commanded the submarine USS Runner (SS 476).  He was put in command of twelve submarines, “Benny’s Peacemakers,” to witness the end of World War II.

Excerpt from the diary of USS Razorback (SS 394) crew member Atkinson.  AIMM Permanent Collection.

“Benny’s Peacemakers” tied up alongside the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS 19) on August 31, 1945.

Proteus was commissioned into the United States Navy on January 31, 1944.  She served in Midway and Guam completing voyage repairs and refitted submarines.  Proteus became the flagship of a twenty six ship support group that steamed off the coast of Honshu, Japan, until August 26, 1945.  Two days later, the submarine tender anchored in Sagami Wan to support submarines.  August 31, 1945, Proteus and “Benny’s Peacemakers” anchored off Yokosuka Navy Yard, in Yokosuka Ko, Japan.

Excerpt from USS Razorback (SS 394) September 1945 deck log.  

USS Razorback (SS 394) crew members listening to the live broadcast of the surrender ceremony.  Raines's photograph collection.  AIMM permanent collection.

The ceremony began at 9:02 a.m. on September 2, 1945. The ceremony was broadcast throughout the world and lasted twenty three minutes.  The ceremony ended with the following statement.

"Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed!" -  General MacArthur, September 2, 1945.

With those words the Second Great War was finally over.

"Admiral Lockwood returning from formal surrender on the Missouri.  He is Chief of all subs operating in Pacific area." -- Marion Raines.  Raines's photograph aboard USS Razorback (SS 394) September 2, 1945.  AIMM permanent collection.

Author: Allison Hiblong

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

USS Tigrone (SS 419)

"Submarine Honor Guard"

USS Tigrone (SS 419)

USS Tigrone (SS 419) was a Tench-class submarine built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  She was commissioned into the United States navy on October 25, 1944.  The submarine arrived in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on February 16, 1945, ready to serve in the Pacific Fleet.

USS Tigrone (SS 419) launched on July 20, 1944.  United States Navy photograph.

During World War II, the submarine served three war patrols.  She patrolled the South China Sea, Hainan coast, Batan Island, and off of Honshū, Japan.  May 19 to July 3, 1945, Tigrone’s second war patrol, the submarine served lifeguard duty where she rescued a total of 30 aviators.  The final war patrol, she again served lifeguard duty off of Japan’s mainland.  August 15, 1945, orders were received to “Cease Fire.”  August 31, 1945, Tigrone moored in Tokyo Bay to be present during the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan.

October of 1945, after the war ended, Tigrone visited Washington, D.C. for Navy Day.  In December, she was prepared for inactivation.  The submarine was decommissioned on March 30, 1946.  The Navy chose to reclassify Tigrone as a radar picket submarine (SSR 419).  She was then recommissioned on November 1, 1948. 

USS Tigrone (SSR 419) as a Radar Picket Submarine, 1951.  United States Navy photograph.

From 1949 to 1957, Tigrone evaluated new radar equipment and techniques for long range air defense in the Arctic, Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean.  Again, the submarine was decommissioned from service on August 1, 1957.

Tigrone was redesignated back to SS 419 and recommissioned on March 10, 1962.  After refresher training, the submarine operated in the Mediterranean Sea.  She then served for the Submarine School in the United States.

Again the submarine went through a new designation as an auxiliary submarine (AGSS 419) in December of 1963.  The next year, Tigrone was fitted with an experimental sonar unit and operated with the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Submarine School. 

USS Tigrone (SS 419) underway March 15, 1967.  Photograph courtesy of Carlos Manuel Estrela.

In 1965, Tigrone went through a major overhaul and modification by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  The submarine’s torpedo tubes were removed, the two forward compartments were sound isolated, and a new experimental sonar system was installed.  The Underwater Sound Laboratory used the submarine for research and development. Tigrone and British submarine HMS Grampus worked together for a joint American-British oceanographic operation in 1972. Tigrone continued in research activities until she was decommissioned on June 27, 1975.   In October of 1976, the submarine was sunk as a target.

Postal Cover to commemorate the joint United States and British sonar operations, April 26, 1972.

When the submarine was decommissioned, she was the oldest submarine still in commission by the United States Navy.  Tigrone actively served the Navy for twenty three years, eight months, and twenty two days.  In 1975, she was the last unit of the submarine force that had taken part in combat action in World War II, where she earned two battle stars. 

Author: Allison Hiblong

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