Volusia County nonprofit hopes to bring WWII tugboat back home

A Volusia County nonprofit organization is trying to raise $300,000 by Oct. 15 to bring home a 77-year-old World War II tugboat that was built in the county and believed to be at the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.

Daniel Friend, president of DeLand Historic Trust Inc., said the rare piece of Volusia County history is currently nearly 5,000 miles away in Stockholm, Sweden.

"It’s our holy grail. It’s that rare," Friend said of ST-429, built in 1944. 

He said the U.S. Army used tugboats built on U.S. coastal towns during World War II to move loads all over the world. Only 29 were built during World War II on Lake Beresford in Volusia County by people in DeLand and the western part of the county.

Friend, who is a history buff, said he discovered ST-429 nearly eight years ago. A couple in Sweden owns it. 

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"I discovered half a dozen still existed around the world and yet this is the only one that has the original engine and the original superstructure is largely intact."

Friend said the owners agreed to gift the non-profit organization the tugboat after their deaths and put it in their wills, but they relocated to London during the COVID pandemic and are now looking to get rid of the boat.

The non-profit has raised $15,000 of the $300,000 needed for the tugboat to make the voyage from Sweden to Jacksonville and then down the St. Johns River to Volusia County.

"This is an incredible opportunity for a little inland town in Florida that built tugboats," Friend said. "We’re getting strong donations from the community. We need more. We need corporate support."

Friend said if they do not reach their goal, the non-profit will return any check donation over $100, but he is hoping they secure enough money to bring the tugboat home.

"We intend to put it on top of a World War II west Volusia monument where we will honor those 44 men [from west Volusia County] who gave their lives in World War II."

Friend said there is a chance the tugboat could be moved to another berth, giving them until spring to collect the money for the voyage.

Donations can be made to DeLand Historic Trust, Inc. and sent to 2232 Holly Lane, DeLand, FL 32724.

For more information on the non-profit and the DeLand Memorial Hospital and Veteran’s Museum click here.

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