Low water levels on the Mississippi have revealed the wreck of the USS Inaugural, a World War II minesweeper which sank in the Great Flood of 1993. The Inaugural began life in Washington state where it was built for the US Navy during World War II. A member of the Admirable class of minesweepers, the ship was commissioned in December of 1944 and earned two battle stars for its service in the Pacific Theater. Inaugural and her crew fought in the Okinawa campaign and swept more than 80 Japanese mines from the Pacific.
Following World War 2, the ship was mothballed in Texas as a member of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until an enterprising St. Louisan named Robert O’Brien discovered the ship in a military surplus catalog. O’Brien purchased the ship and moved it to St. Louis where he charged $1 per person to tour the Inaugural. The Inaugural changed hands several times throughout the intervening years until she was ripped from her moorings during the Great Flood of 1993. Efforts by the US Coast Guard and other vessels allowed the ship to be safely beached just south of downtown St. Louis, however, the ship sank a few days later in what some believe to be mysterious circumstances – possibly flowing out of the owner’s desire to collect insurance on the vessel and pay off looming creditors.
The ship now breaks the surface every time the river level is below average and under current conditions is almost completely above water. The Inaugural is not the only recent maritime oddity on the St. Louis riverfront as a cement barge sank while at anchor just last year and a fire claimed the steamboat Robert E. Lee in 2010.