Tuesday, November 30, 1999

National Park Service photo
The tugboat USS Hoga, right, blasts water on the mortally
wounded USS Arizona, listing at left, during Japan's
Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The mast of the
USS Nevada is visible behind the Hoga.

Scrappy tugboat survived
Pearl attack, but loses Hawaii
home to Mighty Mo

The Hoga languishes in storage after
losing the battle to return to Hawaii

By Gregg K. Kakesako


In the battle to acquire the USS Missouri, one of the casualties was the last surviving ship of Japan's Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor -- a tugboat named USS Hoga.

Now rusting away in the Navy's Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Suisun Bay north of San Francisco Bay, the Hoga is now the focus of three mainland groups vying for vessel.

National Park Service historian Daniel Martinez said the drive to bring the tugboat to Hawaii died with the success of USS Missouri.

"It would have taken less than a million dollars to bring her here and restore her, but the Missouri took the wind out of their sails."

With all the fund-raising efforts focusing on the Missouri, "the Hoga just got left out," he added.

Frank McHale, former president of Friends of Hoga, said Hawaii's poor economy also hindered fund-raising efforts.

"The customary sources had been tapped too many times ... especially after the massive effort by the Missouri folks ... We couldn't get any major donors."

But McHale said there was one bright note. Some of the donated money was used to build a model of the historic tugboat and it is now on display at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center.

Martinez added: "It was the last vessel of the Pearl Harbor attack ... it had gotten a special commendation from Adm. (Chester) Nimitz."

The crew of the Hoga fought fires caused by Japanese bombs and torpedoes that consumed the decks of the battleships USS Arizona, USS Maryland and USS Tennessee for 72 hours nonstop, while also picking up survivors who were in the water.

The tugboat also is credited with pushing the sinking battleship USS Nevada out of the Pearl Harbor channel.

McHale said he is in the process of dissolving the Friends of Hoga organization and has told the Fort Lauderdale Navy League that he would support their effort to get the tugboat.

Representatives from the Fort Lauderdale branch of the Navy League in Florida, the Walt Disney company and the William Jefferson Clinton Library seem interested in the aging vessel that was used by the Port of Oakland from 1948 to 1989 as a fireboat.

The Fort Lauderdale group wants to turn the Hoga into Florida's only floating World War II memorial.

Arkansas River tour operators are looking for a vessel that would offer rides from the Clinton waterfront presidential library.

Martinez said he has been told that Disney is interested in the Hoga as part of its planned epic on World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack.

Martinez said he told movie producers about the Hoga's story while they toured Pearl Harbor about three months ago.

"I told them if they were looking for pyrotechnics and a good story, the Hoga had it all," Martinez said.

In 1995, the National Trust for Historic Preservation called the Hoga one of America's 11 most endangered historic places.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin