The “unsinkable” battleship USS Nevada, historian James Delgado and the historic tugboat Hoga go way back.
31 years ago, Delgado was a Maritime Historian of the National Park Service and Head of National Maritime Initiative in Washington, D.C. He was already a seasoned academic with experience as a historian in the United States Department of the Interior, museum curator, college instructor and author.
“In 1989-1990, while working on the first national inventory of America’s historic ships, I was able to board, inspect and then go out on the water with the historic fireboat City of Oakland, better known as USS Hoga (YT-146), which was on duty with its crew at Pearl Harbor,” Delgado said in a recent Facebook post. “They responded to the attack, assisting USS Nevada and then fighting the fires on USS Arizona. It was a privilege to author the study that led to Hoga being designated a National Historic Landmark.”
Hoga is most recognized for pushing the sinking USS Nevada to safety and preventing her from blocking the narrow channel. Because of her actions at Pearl Harbor, Hoga, her commanding officer, and his crew received a commendation from ADM Chester A. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. She continued to assist with clean-up after the attack then was loaned to the City of Oakland for nearly five decades, receiving modifications to increase fire-fighting capability and even giving President Jimmy Carter a tour of the Port of Oakland. USS Nevada was towed out to sea in 1948 and successfully weathered all of the Navy’s efforts to sink her except aerial torpedo strikes.
In 1994, the City of Oakland returned Hoga to the U.S. Navy, where she went to storage until 2005 when she was transferred to the City of North Little Rock. After a decade of hang-ups and red tape, lots of hard work and little strokes of luck, Hoga finally made the journey to North Little Rock in 2015 and is now on display at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.
Meanwhile, Delgado was busy immersing in maritime heritage as Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum in British Columbia; President & CEO of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology; Director of Maritime Heritage in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries at NOAA, and then in 2017, Senior Vice President of SEARCH, Inc., a “cultural resource management firm” in Jacksonville, Florida.
Which is where Delgado and Hoga‘s story continues.
SEARCH, Inc., and Ocean Infinity recently announced they had found the wreckage of USS Nevada, three miles below the water’s surface and about 65 nautical miles from Pearl Harbor, according to an article by U.S. Naval Institute. The same “unsinkable battleship” the tugboat Hoga had pushed out of the narrow channel at Pearl Harbor 79 years ago.
“Full circle, thirty years later, it was another privilege to be part of the USS Nevada discovery team,” Delgado commented in the Facebook post. Delgado served as the lead maritime archaeologist on the mission.
“Nevada is an iconic ship that speaks to American resilience and stubbornness,” Delgado said in a statement on SEARCH, Inc.’s website. “Rising from its watery grave after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, it survived torpedoes, bombs, shells and two atomic blasts. The physical reality of the ship, resting in the darkness of the great museum of the sea, reminds us not only of past events, but of those who took up the challenge of defending the United States in two global wars. This is why we do ocean exploration to seek out these powerful connections to the past.”
Though the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is temporarily closed to the public to curb the spread of coronavirus, the museum is hopeful they will be able to welcome guests again soon. In the meantime, the museum has posted virtual tours of the tugboat on their Facebook page.