Bid for USS Hoga lost
The Navy chooses Arkansas to home-port the historic tugboat
By Gregg K. Kakesako firstname.lastname@example.org
Arkansas, rather than Hawaii, will be the permanent home port of the World War II tug boat USS Hoga, the smallest surviving vessel of the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack.
The Navy ended a six-year campaign by a few local supporters to get the Hoga home-ported in Hawaii by announcing last week that the 99-foot vessel will be donated to the city of North Little Rock, Ark.
Charles Hinman, treasurer of the local Tugboat Hoga Preservation Society, said his group knew last year that it would never be able to bring the vessel to the islands, after a local bank turned them down because "we had no financial backing."
Hinman said his organization needed to raise at least $100,000 to start up, and they were far from getting that amount.
USS Arizona Memorial Historian Daniel Martinez said he was not surprised that the tugboat was given to North Little Rock, because "in the end the final determination by the Navy was based on a business plan."
Martinez said the National Park Service initially was involved in one of the first campaigns to secure the rights to the tugboat, because it has always felt that the vessel had "bona fide ties to Hawaii's history and the attack on Pearl Harbor."
Also, Hoga was representative of the island's maritime history, Martinez added.
Martinez said the Park Service could only serve in an advisory capacity, because the Navy would turn the Hoga over only to an entity that had a viable business plan. Past efforts by local backers to bring the Hoga had failed because they were never able to put together such a plan and because the Navy rejected their proposal to berth the Hoga between the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.
Rebuffed by the Navy, local Hoga supporters proposed two years ago berthing the Hoga near the Falls of Clyde at the Hawaii Maritime Center in Honolulu Harbor. Hinman said the state was willing to place the Hoga there.
Although the Hoga will not be returning to Pearl Harbor, Martinez said he is "gratified" to hear that "it is going to be preserved. That's the bottom line."
"The Hoga has been identified as one of the 10 most endangered objects and places," Martinez added.
Navy Secretary Gordon England said: "This historic vessel serves as a testament to the unrelenting courage and fierce determination exhibited by Hoga's crew during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. I am confident that the city of North Little Rock and the people of the state of Arkansas will preserve Hoga as a proud part of America's naval heritage."
The Navy said the Hoga will be towed later this summer from its mothball fleet in Suisun Bay in Northern California through the Panama Canal and up the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River. It will join another historic naval vessel, the submarine Razorback, already on display at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum across from the future Clinton Presidential Library. Hoga is expected to be open to the public before the end of the year.
Hoga, built by Consolidated Shipbuilders, Morris Heights, N.Y., was launched on Dec. 31, 1940, and placed into service on May 22, 1941.
On Dec. 7, 1941, 11 of its 15 crewmen were hauled into duty within 10 minutes after Japanese bombs and torpedoes slammed into the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.
The crew of the Hoga fought fires caused by Japanese bombs and torpedoes that consumed the decks of the battleships USS Arizona, Maryland and Tennessee for 72 hours nonstop, while also picking up survivors in the water.
The Hoga pulled the damaged repair ship USS Vestal from the burning battleship USS Arizona. Hoga pushed the minelayer USS Oglala to a nearby dock, and assisted the burning battleship USS Nevada by fighting fires and pushing the sinking vessel aground.
The Nevada, which had already taken a direct torpedo hit, was steaming toward the open sea. As a wave of attack fighters concentrated their fire on the wounded Nevada, it went aground at Hospital Point near the mouth of channel.
The Hoga pulled the sinking battleship free and moved it to the western side of the harbor's entrance, preventing it from blocking the narrow channel. This prevented the Nevada from sinking in the channel and blocking the fleet's access to the open sea. For its actions, Hoga received a commendation from Adm. Chester Nimitz in February 1942.
In 1989 the Hoga was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. After serving as a firefighting tug for 45 years on San Francisco Bay, the vessel was retired in 1993 and returned to Navy custody. Hoga was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1996.