The USS Inaugural has resurfaced after 19 long years at the bottom of the Mississippi River. Well, to be fair, it’s still on the bottom of the river. It’s just that the top of the river has lowered enough to let the Inaugural see the light of day.
The Inaugural began its life as a minesweeper back in WWII, where it earned two stars for service. It was eventually decommissioned in 1956 and was converted into a museum ship along the St. Louis Waterfront. Nearly half a century later, a flood caused the ship to break free of its mooring and crash into the Poplar street bridge. The boat continued to float downstream until it sank near the MacArthur Bridge.
Norman James, a man who works near the bridge at St. Louis, Missouri, was there to witness the event, “Actually I was driving across and I seen this big boat come across. We was trying to hurry up and get across the bridge. It was just like once we came across we saw it on the news that it had crashed and ended up here. This is where it’s been ever since.”
And now James is back to see the ship resurface. With twisted metal and a rusted hull, it’s clear that the USS Inaugural will never float again.
The Inaugural won’t be alone in its watery tomb. The river has claimed about 700 ships along the stretch between Cairo and Hannibal, Fox 2 Now reports. But what appears to be a sunken ship can be deceiving. “Most of what’s going to be coming up is river training structures, bank strengthenings, uh dikes, things like that,” said Army Corp of Engineers Archaeological Mark Smith. “Which to the uneducated eye will sometimes look like posts of wood standing up out of the water. But most of the time you’re going to see more of those than you are going to see ships themselves.”
The Inaugural has become a popular attraction recently. This isn’t the first time that the Inaugural has poked through the surface of the water, and every time locals can’t help but stop by to visit the old ship. Some of the visitors might be real-life treasure hunters, despite the fact that scavenging the ship for old trinkets is illegal. Sunken or not, the contents of the ship are still property of Uncle Sam so taking anything could earn you a fine or a prison sentence.
But for those of who us who don’t live near this old ship wreckage, all we can do is salute this fallen naval vessel and give a nod to its service. It was made in America, it fought for America, and now it’s buried in America.