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Important Nautical Items from the Historic USS Hoga

The last Operational Survivor of the Pearl Harbor Attack

History of the Hoga (1)

Built in 1940, Hoga, YT- 146 (Yard Tug), was 99.7 feet long, 25.6 feet in beam, and 10.6 feet draft, displacing 350 tons. Hoga, named after the Sioux Indian word for "fish," was built by the Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation at Morris Heights, New York, for the United States Navy. Launched on December 31, 1940 and accepted by the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia, on May 22, 1941, Hoga was assigned to the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor. Like other YTs, she carried firefighting equipment.

Hoga During the Attack of Dec. 7, 1941

Hoga was moored with other yard service craft near the drydocks at 1010 Dock when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces on the morning of December 7, 1941. Ten of Hoga's eleven-man crew were aboard; the cook was ashore. As the planes swooped in over the harbor, Assistant Tugmaster Robert Brown, sleeping in the pilothouse, was awakened by the dropping bombs. "I raised up and looked out and all hell was breaking loose. I saw planes all over the place. Japanese planes and several ships on fire." Joseph B. McManus, the Tugmaster, was shaving in his cabin. "I heard the noise and I looked out the porthole...and the first sight I saw was the Oklahoma which had quite a list. She had been hit....The Chief Engineer was standing on the dock and I heard him say, "My God! This is war!"

Hoga was underway within ten minutes of the first strike; "The only orders we got during the whole raid was to get underway and assist wherever we could...." Steaming out into the harbor, she picked up two men in the water, landed them on the deck, and proceeded to the burning ships along Battleship Row. At the end lay the shattered hulk of the battleship Arizona. Moored to Arizona was the badly damaged repair ship USS Vestal. Throwing lines to the stricken repair ship, Hoga helped pull Vestal away from Arizona at 0830 hours. Pulling in the tow lines that had been chopped free by Vestal's panicked crew, Hoga ran to the assistance of the minelayer USS Oglala, flagship of RADM William Rea Furlong, commanding Minecraft, Battle Force. As she reached Oglala at 0850 hours, Hoga was passed by the battleship Nevada, then making a run for the open sea.

As the first wave of planes struck at 0750, Nevada, moored near the Arizona, had partial steam up. At 0803 the ship took a torpedo hit near frame 40 and began to list. Counterflooding kept Nevada from capsizing as her anti-aircraft batteries opened up on the attacking planes. The commanding officer, Capt. F. W. Scanland, was not aboard; the senior officer was Lt. Cmdr. J.F. Thomas, USNR. Thomas, aided by another junior officer, conned the ship away as burning oil from the Arizona began to threaten Nevada. Just as the second wave of planes struck, the damaged Nevada got underway at 0845, her officers hoping to escape the trap and run for the open sea through the narrow harbor entrance. The Japanese recognized a golden opportunity to sink a battleship and at the same time block the channel. The planes concentrated their attack on Nevada, which continued running, bombs crashing around her and on her forward deck and superstructure. At 0907 a second hail of bombs rained on the ship, one striking the forecastle. By 0910, Nevada was sinking, and she was grounded on Hospital Point to avoid going down in the channel.

Meanwhile Hoga, with another vessel, was assisting Oglala. Damaged by the detonation of a torpedo against the cruiser Helena, moored next to Oglala, the listing minesweeper required towing to clear the field of fire for Helena. As the sinking Oglala was moved aft of Helena by Hoga, "Admiral Furlong saw the Nevada ‘give quite a heave,' and reflected to himself 'Well...there she is in the channel and there is going to be trouble if that ship sinks in the channel.' So he sent the two tugs that had been assisting the Oglala to help nose the Nevada over toward Hospital Point." Hoga then worked with the other tug, YT-130, to pull the battleship free and move her to the western side of the harbor entrance, where by 1045 she settled as Hoga poured water onto the burning deck and into the virtually destroyed forward section. Tied to the port bow, Hoga worked on a raging forecastle fire with the pilothouse monitor and four hose lines for over an hour before retiring.

From Nevada, Hoga returned to Battleship Row, fighting fires on USS Maryland, USS Tennessee, and finally USS Arizona. Hoga worked the Arizona fire from 1600 hours on Sunday until 1300 hours on Tuesday, December 9. "We didn't recover any bodies," said Assistant Tugmaster Brown, "We were not in a position to do that. We had more important work to do.... There were dead bodies on there. We could see [them] up on the mainmast." Following 72 continuous hours of firefighting, Hoga remained on active duty through the rest of the week, patrolling the harbor, assisting in body removal, and searching for Japanese submarines believed to be hiding in the harbor.

Ship and Crew Receive Commendation from Admiral Nimitz

On February 1942, ADM. Chester A. Nimitz, CINCPAC, commended McManus, his men, and their tug for a job well done:

"For distinguished service in line of your profession as Commanding Officer of the Navy Yard Tug HOGA, and efficient action and disregard of your own personal safety during the attack.... When another ship was disabled and appeared to be out of control, with serious fires on the fore part of that ship, you moored your tug to her bow and assisted materially in extinguishing the fires. When it was determined that the damaged ship should be beached, as there was serious danger of her sinking in the channel, you assisted in the beaching operations in an outstanding manner. Futhermore, each member of the crew of the HOGA functioned in a most efficient manner and exhibited commendable disregard of personal danger throughout the operations."

Hoga extinguishes fires aboard USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.

Hoga After the Attack

Following the Japanese attack, Hoga was pressed into additional duty cleaning debris from the harbor and the salvage efforts on the sunken and battle-damaged vessels. This effort continued through the war years. Hoga was an active participant in this as well as in the continuing function of Pearl Harbor as an active Navy Base with increased responsibilities and duties as the springboard for the eventual re-conquest of occupied Pacific islands and territories and victory over Japan. During the war Hoga was redesignated as a YTB (Yard Tug, Large) on May 15, 1944. Salvage work and heavy duty continued after the war.

Post-war Years

In 1948, Hoga was transferred on loan to the Port of Oakland for use as a fireboat through the efforts of Congressman George P. Miller. Re-christened Port of Oakland (later changed to City of Oakland) entered service in July 1948. She received modifications to increase her fire-fighting capability. In her 40 year career as an Oakland fireboat, the vessel combated numerous shipboard fires, waterfront blazes, rescued persons in the water, and served as a tour boat for President Jimmy Carter during a 35-minute tour of the port on July 3, 1980. Hoga received National Landmark Status on June 30, 1989 while still serving as the fireboat City of Oakland. On July 28, 2005, the US Navy officially transferred Hoga to the City of North Little Rock, where she is destined to be a permanent exhibit at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.

City of Oakland, 1996 photo by James P. Delgado

(1) Much of the historic information above is the work of James P. Delgado, National Historic Landmark Study, 1989, and can be found at