A World War II-era tugboat returns to its birthplace in Central Florida

Volusia County, Fla. – A historic tugboat built in DeLand in 1944 has made its final voyage back to Volusia County after 79 years in Europe.

The nonprofit DeLand Historic Trust Inc. Dan Friend, head of the company, has made it his mission to bring the more than 140-tonne boat – used in World War II, Normandy – back to Deland.

“We found the Tiger with the original World War II engine and the original superstructure in place,” Friend said.

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In 2022, the Tiger finally returned to the U.S., with a generous, anonymous donation paying for its transport to Jacksonville, but it faced a minor setback after getting stuck in the mud earlier this year in Astor.

“We knew it was coming, it’s done, and we’re bringing it home to get it in a safe place before another hurricane like Ian comes,” Friend said.

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Hours before the tug was due to return to DeLand, people camped out on the banks of the St. Johns River, eager to catch a glimpse of it.

“We got here at 7:15,” said Susie Pease. “I’m always excited about it, and the story is really cool.”

Craig Walker is a US Navy veteran. He and his Rotary Club members prepared refreshments for the crowd at Ed Stone Park on the St. Johns River early Sunday morning to see the tugboat.

“I’m excited to see it land here, and my father-in-law helped build the thing,” Walker said. “It’s kind of cool that it’s going back to its original building site.”

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This boat actually has a lot of history, which is why the folks at DeLand are trying to preserve it. There is also the possibility of turning the boat into a memorial.

“We’re going to have a memorial dedicated to all the builders and crews of all the U.S. Army STs of World War II,” Friend said.


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