Sunday, June 17, 2001

Frank McHale on Thursday stood in front of a model of the tugboat
Hoga on display at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.
McHale is trying to raise funds to have the Hoga returned to
Pearl Harbor from a naval facility north of San Francisco.

Pearl tugboat is
prize in tug-of-war

5 groups are fighting for control
of the tug Hoga, which played a
pivotal role in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Disney's $140 million blockbuster "Pearl Harbor" may help keep alive another survivor from the 1941 Japanese attack: a tugboat named Hoga.

At least five organizations are in a tugboat battle to win control of the last surviving vessel of the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor attack and turn it into a museum or a memorial.

Three are in Florida, another is in Arkansas, and a Hawaii resident has renewed his crusade to return the Hoga to Pearl Harbor.

Hawaii Kai resident Frank McHale started a Friends of Hoga here with the support of the National Park Service, but his association had problems when his fund-raising efforts clashed with the Navy League's campaign to bring the battleship Missouri to Pearl Harbor.

McHale said he was only able to raise $5,000 of the $1 million he believes is needed to bring the tugboat to Pearl Harbor. Some of McHale's funds were used to build a case for a model of the Hoga, now displayed at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.

McHale's nonprofit organization now has contacted Virginia John Sen. Warner and is seeking congressional funding to take custody of the boat and return it to Hawaii, where it can be part of the display at Pearl Harbor along with the USS Arizona and the Missouri. He would like to have the Hoga under the control of the National Park Service.

"Ideally, it should placed between the Arizona visitor center and the Bowfin museum, where the (Ford Island) ferry landing used to be," McHale said.

McHale also has turned to the Internet to get his message out with a new Web site at

In Florida, Gina Silvestri, a south Florida boat dealer, said she has been trying for two years to raise the $1.5 million she believes it will take to tow the 99-foot tugboat from Northern California and keep it afloat. Her Web site is

"I want to sail her on her own bottom from San Francisco," said Silvestri, who heads the USS Hoga YT-146 Association, "and when she reaches Miami, to have survivors from Pearl Harbor join the crew on the last leg."

Press Release
The tugboat Hoga, right, shot water at the USS Arizona during
the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The mast of the
USS Nevada also is visible.

The Hoga has been designated a national monument and is the smallest and the last surviving ship from the Pearl Harbor attack that is available to be released by the Navy.

It is now berthed in the Navy's Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Suisun Bay north of San Francisco, where it was retired in 1996 after serving for five decades as a fireboat for the city of Oakland. McHale said the Navy recently took the Hoga to a private dockyard to clean its hull and check the condition of the ship.

"It found out that it is in amazingly good shape," McHale said.

Pat Dolan, spokeswoman for Navy Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., which determines the fate of decommissioned Navy vessels, said there have been numerous inquiries and interests in the Hoga, but only one bona fide application.

"However, that one had to be returned since it was incomplete," Dolan said.

That was from the USS Hoga Association, headed by Dick Winer and based in Fort Lauderdale. Winer wants to berth the Hoga next to the Riverwalk complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Forty-six ships, including the battleship USS Missouri, have been converted to floating museums or memorials under the Navy's ship donation program during the past 50 years. These ships are located in 22 states.

Those seeking a decommissioned naval vessel must show evidence of financing for the first five years of operation. Besides mooring, curatorial, financial and maintenance plans, the prospective recipient has to pay for the costs of towing the vessel, Dolan said.

Also studying the possibility of using the Hoga as a waterfront centerpiece is the Florida city of Daytona Beach, which wants to incorporate the tugboat as part of its riverfront Veteran's Plaza renewal project.

Launched in 1939, the Hoga means fish in Sioux. Eleven of its 15 crewmen were hauled into duty within 10 minutes after the Japanese bombs and torpedoes slammed into US warships anchored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

For three hours, the Hoga dodged bombs, bullets, and torpedoes to help fight fires on the USS Arizona, minesweeper USS Oglala, and the USS Nevada.

Shortly before 9 a.m., 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. The Hoga has a 4-foot-long, 6-inch-deep dent on the forward port quarter, which it received when it helped beach the Nevada.

After the attack Adm. Chester Nimitz, World War II Pacific Fleet commander, singled out the crew with a special commendation.

Silvestri said: "We need to keep alive the memory of what these men did and their sacrifices. It's also important to remember what they represent: morals, scruples, honor and pride."

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