Friday, March 26, 2004

The Navy has awarded the tugboat USS Hoga, shown here in a painting on display at Pearl Harbor, to a nonprofit organization in North Little Rock, Ark., a decision that a Hawaii group plans to appeal.

Hopes fade for WWII
tug’s move to isles

The Navy secretary backs Arkansas
as the Hoga's new home

Arkansas, not Hawaii, will be the home of one of the last survivors of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tugboat USS Hoga, Navy Secretary Gordon England has decided.

The Navy said a nonprofit organization in North Little Rock, Ark., wants to display the Hoga as a Navy memorial. More than $400,000 has been pledged by the project, which has the backing of the city of North Little Rock.

The decision by the Naval Seas Systems Command dashes the hopes of a local group that has been trying to drum up support to bring the tugboat here from the Navy's Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Suisun Bay north of San Francisco.

Dave Ford, president of the Tugboat Hoga Preservation Society, said, "It's not over yet but it doesn't look very good."

Ford said his group plans to take its case to Hawaii's congressional delegation because Congress has 30 days to review the Navy's decision.

North Little Rock officials have said the tugboat will become part of a riverfront attraction across the Arkansas River from the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, which will open in November.

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum will also be the home of the 311-foot Razorback, one of two surviving submarines present at Japan's September 1945 surrender in Tokyo Bay.

The city hopes to have the two vessels by this summer.

The 100-foot Hoga, launched in 1940, would join 47 museum ships, such the battleship USS Missouri berthed at Ford Island, now on display in 21 states.

The Hoga, which means "fish" in Sioux, played a crucial role during the 1941 attack and was given a commendation from Adm. Chester Nimitz in February 1942.

After the war, Hoga was leased to the Port of Oakland, Calif., where it served as the port's first fireboat.

The vessel was retired from this service and returned to Navy in 1993.

Hoga was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1996 and designated a national historic landmark.

In Florida, Gina Silvestri, a South Florida boat dealer, said she has been trying for several years to raise the $1.5 million to tow the 99-foot tugboat from California and keep it afloat in Fort Lauderdale.

In the end Gordon chose North Little Rock's application, saying he was "pleased this historic vessel will be preserved as a testament to the unrelenting courage and fierce determination exhibited by Hoga's crew during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, and the difficult work that followed."

Gregory Zonner, one of the Little Rock organizers, said the Hoga will be the centerpiece in the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.

He said the organizers "want to bring some of the Navy history to the center of the United States, so people in this five-state area can get a better understanding of what our Navy means to the U.S. and what sacrifices the people of the Navy have endured over the years."

The Navy said it received applications from five organizations seeking the Hoga.


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