Higgins Boat: Drought exposes a new mystery: what was a World War II boat doing on a California lake? | Society

The US Forest Service reported the discovery of a sunken World War II boat in Lake Shasta, northern California.
The US Forest Service reported the discovery of a sunken World War II boat in Lake Shasta, northern California.US Forest Service (RR.SS.)

New mystery at Lake Shasta. The low water levels caused by the drought in California revealed a boat from World War II. The vessel was on the front lines in both the Mediterranean and the Pacific, assigned to one of the ships in the fleet commanded by the legendary General George S. Patton. The finding has meant a headache for the US Forest Service, who found it at the base of the lake body last fall and released it this weekend, adding new questions to the war story and becoming , incidentally, in a viral phenomenon.

The Forest Service reported on Sunday the discovery in the lake, located in northern California, 370 kilometers from San Francisco. The boat, 10 meters long, is a mass of rusty iron coated with remains of mud and sediment from the lake. It is a Higgins, an amphibious model used to transport troops from ships to ports of attack. On the door of the ramp, the example of the Shasta has the numbers 31-17 painted, for which she has been linked to the USS Monrovia, which was launched in 1942 in the waters of Norfolk, Virginia. A year later she undertook the trip to the Mediterranean.

The Monrovia served as Patton’s command center in the invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943, a memorable Allied campaign to seize the Italian island. Thanks to Operation Husky, the Americans set foot in Axis Europe made up of Italy, Japan and Germany. The arrival on the Sicilian coast was the first step to prepare for the landing in Normandy, on June 6, 1944. According to the rangers, General Dwight Eisenhower was on board the Monrovia at the time of the attack on the Sicilian coast. .

It was not the only time the Higgins would have seen action on the front lines. The war chronicles place him in another five battles in the waters of the Pacific. At the back of it, the Higgins has two turrets that were used by soldiers to place machine guns. Towards the end of 1943, she is presumed to have been part of the American attack on the Tarawa atoll, which today forms part of the archipelago under the flag of Kiribati. The attack on then-Japanese territory marked the beginning of a campaign in which more than 6,000 soldiers on both sides were killed.

The Americans found in that territory a strong resistance from the Japanese. As proof of this, the small Higgins ship that stars in this story got bogged down. “The names of the crew members are known and it is indicated that it was sunk in shallow water during that invasion (although it was saved later), “says the Forest Service. Experts in the war conflict have written extensively about the problems they encountered. US ships in this area, as they had to avoid a reef to enter a lagoon and then reach a beach.

Numbers 31-17 link the boat to the USS Monrovia, of the naval force that fought in 1943 in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
Numbers 31-17 link the boat to the USS Monrovia, of the naval force that fought in 1943 in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. US Forest Service (RR.SS.)

It is not the first time that the low levels of the Shasta have exposed the boat, called “the ghost ship”. When it surfaced in 2021, James Dunsdon, a firefighter with a fondness for World War II treasures, was determined to get his hands on it. He visited the area, took pictures and began to unearth much of the history of the fighting that surrounded the ship. Dunsdon then began a months-long process to convince the Forest Service to give him the wreckage. A rise in levels hid the Higgins for a time. When he received the green light from the authorities, the firefighter was able to get the ship out of the lake.

The Shasta is the largest man-made lake in California. Together with five other reserves, it forms the Central Valley Project, which supplies water to 1.2 million hectares of irrigated fields in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. In addition, it supplies liquid for residential use to millions of people, especially in the San Francisco metropolitan area. For two years, the drought has caused these lakes to have very low levels, which has led to a series of measures throughout the state to save the liquid.

“Any restoration process will be done to preserve as much of the boat as possible and it is hoped that it can be displayed in its battle-worn style,” the Forest Service said. The craft will be displayed at the National Guard Museum in Seward, Nebraska.

The find has now become a viral mystery. “It’s really impressive how she emerged from the lake with so many stories to tell,” the Facebook post states. After the war, the Monrovia served in the Korean War. She was decommissioned in 1968 and the remains of her were sold for scrap. The Higgins is the ninth World War II vessel to have been recovered in recent decades.

The spread of the case has made it possible for several to launch some theories that try to explain what led the Higgins to California. A former Forest Service employee who worked in a nearby bay has explained on social media that two such boats were used in the mid-1970s to move tools and heavy equipment to parts of the lake that were inaccessible by land during wildfires. . “I wonder if this is one of those old boats,” said Michael Livingston.

Keepers of the Nebraska museum hope the mystery will be solved once the boat is out in the open. “Someone will say, ‘yeah, I remember Bob bought that boat back in ’54’ … But that person has yet to be found,” Gerald Meyer, the Nebraska center’s director, told New York Times. At the moment, it remains a treasure open to speculation.

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