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USS Hoga (YT-146)

The USS Hoga (YT-146) was a United States Navy yard tug named after the Sioux Indian word for "fish." After World War II, the tug was known as the Port of Oakland and then the City of Oakland when it was a fireboat in that city.

Built by the Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation in Morris Heights, New York. Authorized on June 18, 1940. The keel was laid on July 25, 1940. Launched on December 31, 1940, the vessel was christened Hoga (YT-146). Commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, May 22, 1941 and assigned to the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor. She made the trip there by way of the Panama Canal, San Diego, and San Pedro. At Pearl Harbor, she was berthed at the Yard Craft Dock and worked moving cargo lighters and assisting ships in and out of berths. Like other YTs, she carried firefighting equipment.

At Pearl Harbor

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 . Moored to Arizona was the badly damaged repair ship . Throwing lines to the stricken repair ship, Hoga helped pull Vestal away from Arizona at 8:30 hours (military time is cited throughout this study). Pulling in the tow lines that had been chopped free by Vestal's panicked crew, Hoga ran to the assistance of the minelayer , flagship of Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong, commanding Minecraft, Battle Force. As she reached Oglala at 8:50 hours, Hoga was passed by the battleship , then making a run for the open sea.

As the first wave of planes struck at 7:50, Nevada, moored near USS Arizona, had partial steam up. At 8:03, 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, Captain F. W. Scanland, was not aboard; the senior officer was Lieutenant Commander J.F. Thomas, USNR. Thomas, aided by another junior officer, conned the ship away as burning oil from the destroyed Arizona began to threaten Nevada. Just as the second wave of planes struck, the damaged Nevada got underway at 8:45, her officers hoping to escape the trap and run for the open sea through the narrow harbor entrance. The Japanese "recognized a golden double opportunity to sink a battleship and at the same time bottle up Pearl Harbor. The planes concentrated their attack on Nevada, which continued running, bombs crashing around her and on her forward deck and superstructure. At 9:07, a second "hail of bombs" rained on the ship, one striking the forecastle. By 9:10, 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 , 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 10:45 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 , , and finally USS Arizona. Hoga worked the Arizona fire from 16:00 hours on Sunday until 13:00 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. The actions of the tug's skipper and crew did not go unrecognized. On February 1942, Admiral Chester 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. Furthermore, each member of the crew of the Hoga functioned in a most efficient manner and exhibited commendable disregard of personal danger throughout the operations.

Following the Japanese attack, Hoga, along with other yard tugs and support craft, was pressed into additional duty cleaning debris from the harbor and the salvage efforts that began immediately 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 reconquest 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, but 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.

Fireboat Service in Oakland

Oakland, one of the California's most active ports, surpassing her one-time rival San Francisco after the latter's nearly century-long reign as principal American port on the Pacific, was without municipal fireboat protection until the arrival of Hoga. Heavy shipping of war material from the Oakland Army Base, an active part of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, the presence of oil tankers calling at East Bay refineries, and the United States Naval Air Station at nearby Alameda contributed to the wartime significance of the port of Oakland. In April 1948, it was announced that Oakland would receive Hoga by loan from the Navy.

The arrangement between the Port of Oakland and the City Council by which the vessel was operated included Port-financed alterations to increase the pumping capacity from 4,000 to 10,000 gpm, a berth, new firehouse, and partial defrayment of the salaries of the crew. The City would operate and pay part of the fireboat crew's salaries. According to Mayor Joseph E. Smith, "by this arrangement Oakland will receive excellent fire protection along its valuable waterfront properties, and the cost of the service will be distributed between the City and the Port." Arriving in May, Hoga was brought by a Navy crew from Treasure Island to the Grove Street Pier in Oakland, where transfer papers were signed on May 28, 1948.

Reconditioned at a cost of $73,000 in 1948 by Pacific Coast Engineering Company at Pacific Drydock and Repair in Oakland, the fireboat, now christened Port of Oakland (later changed to City of Oakland) entered service in July 1948: The fireboat is berthed at the foot of Broadway in Oakland, immediately adjacent to a firehouse from which she can draw her crew of seven hosemen and a Battalion Chief, and have them aboard within a very few minutes. A regularly licensed pilot and marine engineer continually man the fireboat. Under this arrangement the Port of Oakland can be fully manned and on her way at speed almost immediately.

The day after formal commissioning, Port of Oakland was called into service to help combat a shipboard fire on the freighter Hawaiian Rancher.

In her 40 year career as an Oakland fireboat, the vessel has 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. One highlight of the President's visit was his playfully aiming of City of Oakland's bow monitor at the press boat. The fireboat was moved to a new berth at Jack London Square on December 7, 1982. The most recent adventure was responding to the burning tanker SS Puerto Rican in the rough seas outside the Golden Gate Bridge in 1984. The decline of large wooden warehouses and piers, better shipboard fire control, and the crowding of the harbor with smaller pleasure craft has limited the use of the fireboat, and the Port of Oakland, like other major ports, considered a smaller, more maneuverable vessel to meet the needs of the 21st century waterfront.

The ship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.,

The City of Oakland returned the Hoga to the Navy in 1994 at Treasure Island, where it was subsequently moved to the Maritime Administration's Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. After several years of being available for donation, the Navy selected the City of North Little Rock, Arkansas among four other competing applications. A donation transfer contract was signed on July 29, 2005, whereupon ownership of Hoga transferred to the City of North Little Rock. As of October 2006, the removal of Hoga from Suisun Bay by the Museum was still pending.

As of September 2007, the National Park Service summary about the ship lists it at North Little Rock, Arkansas, but still also reports it is in Alameda County, which is in California.

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