“Craftsman’ shares story of Higgins Boat for Veterans Day

Eric Hollenbeck has been a staple in the community for the more than four decades and has been featured on the Magnolia Network show ‘The Craftsman.’

Hollenbeck has created a name for himself through the Blue Ox Millworks, founded 50 years ago in Eureka.

For Veterans Day, Hollenbeck, a Vietnam Veteran himself, wanted to give back to his fellow man by sharing the story of the Higgins boat.

That’s the boat famous for storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War II.

Hollenbeck was given the opportunity to preserve the Higgins boat for ‘The Craftsman’ special “The Boat That Won the War.”

The boat itself was found in perfect condition, 186 feet under water in Shasta Lake. 

“That’s what preserved her because she’s all wood. At 186 feet down, there ain’t no oxygen,” Hollenbeck said. “There’s not enough oxygen for the microbes to live and that’s what preserved her.”

This means the boat is now locked in time, and the only original Higgins boat with its original paint and parts. Hollenbeck felt a connection with the boat.

“She’s got six campaign bronze stars. I have three campaign bronze stars. But she’s three years older than I am,” Hollenbeck said. “What I’m trying to say is that she and I speak the same language. We’ve been there. I walked a mile in them boots and she’s rode a mile on my water. We’ve been there. We both know what it is under heavy combat.”

The boat itself found life after war, being used for family time out on the lake.

“That’s the story inside the story. She figured out a way to become a contributing member to society by taking little girls, four little girls, out into the lake, fully empty and drop her ramp,” Hollenbeck said. “Mom and dad would drop the ramp and figure out they still had six inches of free board and they would use that as a diving platform and giggle and squeal and have fun in the lake. And if that ain’t a contributing member, I don’t know what is.”

Hollenbeck hopes younger veterans who watch the documentary leave with a sense of their own contributions.

“When you come back, you either you figure out a way to become a contributing member to society or you wind up on the scrap heap and that’s the fork in the road,” Hollenbeck said. “And she and I  aren’t telling you which one to take. We’re telling you that’s the fork in the road.”

The free screening at the Eureka Theater is sponsored by the City of Eureka and the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission and will have a Q&A session with Hollenbeck following the showing. 

The doors will open at 7 p.m. tomorrow night and admission is free.

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