Low Mississippi River levels expose sunken WWII ship

Regional News
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December 25 2021 12:00 am

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Low water levels on the Mississippi River have exposed the USS Inaugural near downtown St. Louis.

The USS Inaugural, a World War II minesweeper, used to be a National Historic Landmark and was open for tours. The ship was once moored in St. Louis, but it broke free in 1993 as the river reached its historic crest of 49.58 feet. The ship drifted downstream before eventually turning on its side and sinking.

In 2012 and 2015, the river was also low enough to expose the USS Inaugural. The river was at 3.85 feet and falling when the ship was spotted Tuesday.

The National Park Service (NPS) said plans to salvage the wreck in one piece and restore it were not feasible. The ship has been determined to be a total loss. The NPS said it will be salvaged for scrap metal and museum exhibition purposes, but that has not yet happened.

NPS says during WWII, the Inaugural participated in the invasion of Okinawa and served as a patrol ship in other battles in the South Pacific. After the war, it conducted minesweeping operations in the waters around Japan and Korea. By the end of its career, it cleared 82 mines and was awarded two battle stars for service.

It is no longer a National Historic Landmark because it ceased to meet the criteria for designation.

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