The USS Hoga did yeoman duty during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, fighting oil-fed fires, maneuvering ships to safer locations and picking up survivors.
Now it is the 100-foot tugboat that needs to be rescued.
The Hoga--the last surviving Navy vessel from the 1941 attack that plunged the United States into World War II--is mothballed in San Francisco Bay, salt water thinning its steel hull.
The tug--its name is the Sioux word for fish--and its 11-man crew were credited at Pearl Harbor with helping to tow the heavily damaged USS Nevada to shallow water, preventing it from sinking and blocking the harbor's entrance.
It also pulled the repair ship USS Vestal away from the burning battleship USS Arizona, and for three days poured water onto the Arizona's flaming superstructure.
The Hoga later spent 40 years fighting fires for the city of Oakland, and was retired in 1989.
Built in 1940, the tug is considered inactive by the Navy, which wants to scrap it. The boat is on the National Register of Historic Places and listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the nation's 11 most seriously endangered historic places.
There is interest in saving it, but there are no firm offers.
A Hawaii group and the National Park Service in 1995 tried to raise $500,000 to return it to the islands and refurbish it, but came up short.
The Navy League's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., chapter would like the tug for a floating World War II memorial.
The Walt Disney Co. recently expressed interest in using the Hoga for a proposed $145 million movie about the attack.
And backers of the proposed Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., have been approached about using the tug for visitor rides to the riverside library.
No one, however, has formally applied to the Navy's Ships Donation Office, which would evaluate plans for financing, mooring, maintaining and displaying the tug before making a recommendation to the secretary of the Navy, deputy program manager Gloria Carvalho said.
"We want it to be a static display," said Carvalho, who believes Pearl Harbor "would be the perfect place."
If it weren't for bad timing and a slow Hawaii economy, the tugboat might today be refurbished and resting at a berth here next to other World War II memorials that draw 1.4 million visitors a year.
Frank McHale, a marine construction project manager, headed the Hawaii effort, which raised only $5,000. His effort was overwhelmed by the campaign to bring the decommissioned battleship Missouri--on which the Japanese signed surrender documents ending World War II--from Bremerton, Wash., this year.
"Funding support for the Hoga was lost. It never got a fighting chance," said Daniel Martinez, historian at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center.
Without a corporate sponsor, the chance of bringing the Hoga back to Pearl Harbor is slipping away, Martinez said.
"It's such a shame that the little vessel that did so much is not part of the national history we have here at Pearl Harbor," he said.
CAPTION: The USS Hoga, the last surviving vessel from the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, is mothballed in San Francisco Bay.