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WWII tugboat returns to DeLand

By Liv Johnson

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    VOLUSIA COUNTY, Florida (WESH) — It’s an exciting day in DeLand. A World War II tugboat originally built in DeLand in the 1940s is finally back in Florida after being towed all the way from Sweden.

It is the only U.S. Army ST tugboat to return to the area where it was built.

“This boat is priceless and we intend to make it a national monument,” said Dan Friend, the president of DeLand Historic Trust Inc.

For Friend, this project is personal.

He found out about the 150-ton tug boat ST 479 “the Tiger” more than a decade ago. He’s been trying to get it home ever since.

“I was amazed to find out that the boat still had the same original engine and superstructure. It’s unheard of!” he said.

Getting the boat was no easy feat. The Tiger, which was used during the Normandy invasion and serviced along the English Channel, eventually ended up being privately owned by a couple in Sweden.

Friend says a generous donor gave $250,000 to help transport it back to the U.S. For the last several months, it’s been in Jacksonville and then Astor.

Jerry Vandenboom is one of dozens of people from Astor who traveled with the Tiger on Sunday to watch it get back to DeLand.

“It’s living history. That is history,” he said.

The job’s not done yet. Dan Friend, Ken Lathrop and the mayor of DeLand, Chris Cloudman, want to make the Tiger a national monument.

“A lot of people that built this gave their lives up to the effort and the people that sailed on them – a number of DeLand residents actually ended up sailing on these tugboats – a number of them died on board during WWII,” Lathrop said.

They’re asking Volusia County for help.

“We need our county commissioners to help us make that happen. They’re the ones that control the park areas that this would fit right into as a WWII memorial,” Lathrop said.

The plan is to keep the boat in Lake Beresford until there’s a place to make a permanent monument.

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