The long journey home of a World War II tugboat, ST479, which was constructed in DeLand, is nearly over.
“Our almost-5,000-mile quest to save Tiger should end on Sunday, Jan. 15,” DeLand Historic Trust President Dan Friend said. “My thanks to all that have helped make this happen!”
Friend intends to anchor the harbor tug at Ed Stone Park on the St. Johns River west of DeLand, while he researches where the boat can find a permanent home. The tugboat will be visible from the park, Friend said, but will be anchored toward the Lake County side of the river, so as not to block the waterway.
Friend invited members of the community to welcome the tugboat home.
“A brief celebration will be held at Ed Stone Park beginning at noon,” he said. “Plans now call for the tug to leave the Astor area around 8 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15, with the arrival planned between noon and 2 p.m. Expectations are for a crowded park, and boat slips and docking ability may be at a premium — please plan ahead!”
He shared some of ST479 Tiger’s history:
“A rare World War II survivor is coming back to the DeLand area … . The allsteel 150-ton U.S. Army tug is the only one known, out of more than 550 built or purchased during World War II, to have returned to the place where it was built.
“The last leg down the St. Johns River home to the Ed Stone Park area is the culmination of an almost-5,000-mile epic trip beginning in Stockholm, Sweden, in July.
“Virtually all of the World War II tugs in Europe were sold off after the war in depots at Rotterdam and Antwerp, and put into commercial use. ST479 Tiger is unique; she’s coming home after 78 years in Europe.
“One of 29 finished up at the American Manufacturing Corp. by about 500 local workers on Lake Beresford during the war, she still has her original Clark diesel engine in place and, amazingly enough, she still has her original superstructure in place, as well.
“One mystery was recently solved when the team working on her discovered that the pilot house had been completely replaced with an extremely rare upgraded steel armored version, almost certainly installed prior to going to Europe. This means based on other info and dates that we now have, that she probably did not arrive in time to assist with the work of the Normandy Invasion, which had been believed to be the case earlier.
“However, a rare reference in another tug’s logbook verifies she was there by September of 1944. The research continues!
“The tugs were essential to victory. They were used for rescue and recovery, towing, large ship positioning, and they pushed ammo barges in at Normandy. One tug even shot down two Japanese airplanes, and another is given credit for helping to sink a submarine!
“But, sadly, virtually every log book, cargo manifest, and many other vital records were destroyed by the U.S. Army in 1951, making every detail found today invaluable.
“All of the known information on these boats has been consolidated and may be found on the website usarmysttugs.com.”
Friend emphasized that donations are still needed for the tugboat’s full restoration and establishment as a national monument the public can enjoy. Contact him at 386-943-9537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send donations to DeLand Historic Trust Inc., 2232 Holly Lane, DeLand, FL 32724.