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Harbor Tug City of Oakland, ex. Hoga
National Historic Landmark Study
by James P. Delgado, 1989
Designated June 30, 1989

Present and Historic Physical Appearance

City of Oakland, 1996 photo by James P. Delgado
The harbor tug City of Oakland, formerly Hoga (YTB-146), is an operating fireboat of the Port of Oakland berthed in the Oakland Estuary on San Francisco Bay. Owned by the United States Navy, the vessel has been on loan to Oakland since 1948. The Port of Oakland is considering returning the fireboat to the Navy, which has expressed interest in it for possible display as a historic vessel. The National Park Service has also expressed interest in the vessel as a historic exhibit at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where the fireboat, then Hoga, participated in the events of December 7, 1941.


As built in 1940, Hoga, designated as a YT-146 (Yard Tug), YTB- 146 (Large Yard Tug), and YTM-146 (Medium Yard Tug) by the U.S. Navy, is a typical US Navy yard tug of the period. This type of vessel inspired the design of the common merchant tugboat type of the post-war period currently in use in the United States. Built entirely of welded steel, Hoga is 99.7 feet in length overall, with a 25.6-foot breadth and a 10.6-foot draft. Hoga displaces 350 tons.[1] The hull, originally painted "Navy grey," is now painted gray and red; the superstructure, originally gray, is now white. The vessel's name has been changed; Hoga is now City of Oakland.

The vessel was originally equipped with twin 250-hp electric pump motors which provided 2,000 gallons per minute of water at 152 psi to three monitors, and to manifolds for 2-3/4- and 1-1/2-inch fire hose on the deck, which she still retains. In the summer of 1948 the vessel's firefighting capacity was increased by the addition of three afterdeck mounted 8-cylinder, 225-hp Buda diesel engines and United Iron Works 6-inch two-stage centrifugal pumps. The pumps, which also provided 2,000 gallons per minute at 150 psi, increased the total pumping capacity of the fireboat to 10,000 gpm. Four additional monitors were added, one of which was later removed, to make the present total of six.[2]

The vessel is Diesel-electric powered. The original twin Diesel 650-hp McIntosh and Seymour engines power twin 515-hp Westinghouse electric motors, which through a common reduction gear power a single screw at 160 rpm to develop a top speed of 14 knots. The engines can be switched to drive the propulsion motors or the original electric pumps below decks, a feature common to fireboats. The vessel also has two original 410-kw direct current generators.[3] The arrangement of the machinery reflects a common engineering technique for a Diesel-electric tugboat of the period:

For Diesel-electric drive the arrangement of machinery is simple. One or two Diesels coupled to generators and exciters with necessary auxiliaries, starting air bottles, etc., are arranged at the forward end of the engine room, while at the aft end is situated the main propelling motor, switchboard, with emergency controls, and the principal ship auxiliaries such as bilge and ballast pumps and fire pump.[4]

The description of a typical Diesel-electric tugboat fits Hoga, though she was more powerful than the standard merchant tug of the time.

The vessel was built with a single welded steel deckhouse with an elevated steel pilothouse, which remains without modification. Flanged steel pipes from the pumps below deck run up the sides and along the deck of the superstructure and provide water to one of the original monitors atop the pilothouse and a monitor mounted on a projecting platform at the forward end of the superstructure in 1948. The upper deck and pilothouse roof are surrounded by a simple pipe rail. The ship's bell, enscribed "USS Hoga, 1940," hangs at the front of the pilothouse. The superstructure also supportts an original steel pole mast with running lights and a single steel funnel. Aft on deck is the original steel pole platform turret tower supporting the an original monitor. Additional monitors, added in 1948, are mounted on the deck aft.


City of Oakland is maintained in excellent condition by her crew of Oakland firefighters, whose fierce pride in their historic vessel is reflected by her appearance. Among the features of the vessel interpreted by the crew is a 4-foot long, 6-inch deep dent on the forward port quarter that was reportedly put there when Hoga pushed the burning and sinking USS Nevada ashore on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.[5] This story cannot be corroborated. All original equipment is in place on the vessel with the exception of the pelorus in the pilothouse; the engine room tools and equipment remain aboard. The Navy logbook, kept from 1941 through 1948, also remained aboard until stolen a few years ago. The interior of the fireboat is painted Navy gray; except for the white superstructure, the impression is one of a commissioned, active duty naval vessel. The three engines, pumps, and monitors added to City of Oakland in 1948 are easily removable intrusions that do not affect the basic historic integrity of the vessel. Possessing an unusually high degree of integrity, City of Oakland remains very identifiable as Hoga and could easily be restored to her appearance on December 7, 1941.


1. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Volume III (Washington, D.C.: United States Navy, 1968) p. 342. Also see factsheet on Oakland fireboat City of Oakland, (n.d.) manuscript, Port of Oakland, California.

2. Press Release, "New Fireboat, 'Port of Oakland'" (June 1948) manuscript, Port of Oakland, California.

3. Ibid.

4. A.C. Hardy, American Ship Types: A Review of the Work, Characteristics, and Construction of Ship Types Peculiar to the Waters of the North American Continent (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1927) pp. 161-162.

5. Oakland Tribune, July 3, 1980.

Statement of Significance

The U.S. Navy yard tug Hoga, built in 1940 and now the fireboat City of Oakland, is typical of hundreds of World War II-era naval service craft. A well-preserved, largely unaltered example of this once-common type of craft, City of Oakland, ex-Hoga, is of exceptional significance in American history as the only known surviving yard craft present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941. While not engaged in combatting the enemy, these craft performed heroic service, extinguishing fires on burning battleships and other vessels in the harbor and rescuing wounded seamen from the oily waters of Battleship Row. Hoga particularly distinguished herself through her crew's actions in helping beach the burning and sinking battleship USS Nevada at Hospital Point as her run for the open sea was aborted by Japanese bombers who intended to sink her in the channel and block Pearl Harbor. Photographs of Nevada show Hoga off the battleship's port bow, pouring water onto the burning, partially sunken vessel. Hoga also fought fires on Battleship Row for 48 hours, particularly working on the blazing hulk of USS Arizona. In the weeks, months, and years that followed the attack, Hoga and her sister yard tugs and support craft were worked hard assisting in the salvage, refitting and repairing of damaged vessels, and keeping Pearl Harbor active as a naval base as it expanded for a naval war in the Pacific. For her actions, Hoga was awarded with a meritorious citation. Placed on loan to the Port of Oakland, California, in 1948 and renamed, the vessel has since had a memorable and regionally significant career. Retaining a remarkable level of integrity and easily restorable to her appearance on December 7, 1941, the fireboat, now the only Pearl Harbor survivor in use, is a significant aspect of the "day of infamy" at Pearl Harbor and its immediate aftermath.

The preceding statement of significance is based on the more detailed statements that follow.


The yard tug 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. Authorized on June 18, 1940, as the United States built up the armed forces in the event the nation was drawn into the Second World War, the tug's keel was laid little more than a month later on July 25, 1940. Launched on December 31, the vessel was christened Hoga (YT-146). Accepted by the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia, on May 22, 1941, Hoga was assigned to the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor, making the trip by way of the Panama Canal, San Diego, and San Pedro.[1] At Pearl Harbor, Hoga, berthed at the Yard Craft Dock, worked moving cargo lighters and assisting ships in and out of berths. Like other YTs, she carried firefighting equipment.

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."[2] 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!"[3]

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...."[4] 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 USS 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 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 USS Oglala, flagship of RADM William Rea Furlong, commanding Minecraft, Battle Force. As she reached Oglala at 8:50 hours, Hoga was passed by the battleship Nevada, 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, 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 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."[5] 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.

Hoga extinguishes fires aboard USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.
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."[6] 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.[7] 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 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."[8] 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.[9] The actions of the tug's skipper and crew did not go unrecognized. 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.


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 from the Navy by lease "at a nominal sum. The Hoga is now in active service and will be returned from Pearl Harbor to Oakland during the middle of May."[12]

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."[13] 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 14 knots speed almost immediately.[14]

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 combatted 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.[15] The fireboat was moved to a new berth at Jack London Square, where she is presently moored, on December 7, 1982. The most recent adventure was responding to the burning tanker Puerto Rican in the rough seas outside the Golden Gate 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, is now considering a smaller, more manueverable vessel to meet the needs of the 21st century waterfront. Interest in acquiring the former Hoga as a historic vessel has been expressed by her owners, the US Navy, and the USS Arizona Memorial, National Park Service.


1. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Volume III (Washington, D.C.: United States Navy, 1968) p. 342.

2. Interview with Robert Brown, Garden Grove, California, by Paul C. Ditzel, November 20, 1988.

3. Interview with Joseph B. McManus, El Cajon, California, by Paul C. Ditzel, November 22, 1988.

4. Ibid.

5. Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981) pp. 515, 535-536.

6. Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon, December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (New York:McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1988) pp. 237-238, 264.

7. Prange, et al., At Dawn We Slept...., pp. 535-536.

8. Interview with Robert Brown, op.cit.

9. Logbook entries for Hoga (YT-146), December 7-10, 1941. Typescript courtesy of Joseph B. McManus, El Cajon, California. Hoga's original engineering log was kept aboard the vessel when she was transferred to Oakland. The log was stolen from the ship several years ago. Mr. McManus kept a copy of his typed submission of the tug's log as part of his after action report to CINCPAC.

10. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Aboard USS Nevada, to Chief Boatswain's Mate Joseph B. McManus, USN, "Commendation", February 2, 1941. Manuscript, courtesy of Joseph B. McManus, El Cajon, California.

11. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.... p. 342.

12. "Fireboat," Notes on acquisition of USS Hoga, (April-July, 1948) Manuscript, Port of Oakland, California.

13. Untitled press release, May 20, 1948, manuscript, Port of Oakland, California.

14. "New Fireboat 'Port of Oakland'," (July 1948) Manuscript, Port of Oakland, California.

15. Ed Powell, "Guardian of the East Bay," Pacific Work Boat (December 1952); Port Progress: Port of Oakland News/Events (July 1980) pp. 3-7. Also see Port of Oakland, 60 Years: A Chronicle of Progress (Oakland: Oakland Board of Port Commissioners, 1987) pp. 13, 28; Oakland Tribune, July 3, 1980, and San Francisco Examiner, December 8, 1982.

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