The Strange, Strange Tale of the U.S.S. Inaugural

An old warship meets its most formidable enemy — the Mississippi River.

Patzius says the theories surrounding the sinking of the ship are rumor and innuendo. The flood, he says, forced the ship downriver. It hit the bridge and suffered a six-inch gash in its side. End of story.

"What gets me is that, until I got involved with the ship, nobody gave a damn about it at all," Patzius says. "When I start wanting to do something, everyone wants to have a say. Hell, they already tried to steal the guns from me once."

So how did he come into possession of the gun?

Launched in 1944, the Inaugural participated in the bloody fight for Okinawa.
courtesy Robert O'Brien
Launched in 1944, the Inaugural participated in the bloody fight for Okinawa.
The U.S.S. Inaugural served as a St. Louis tourist attraction from 1968 until the flood of 1993.
courtesy Robert O'Brien
The U.S.S. Inaugural served as a St. Louis tourist attraction from 1968 until the flood of 1993.

Details

"I stole them," says the unapologetic Patzius. "Captain Venable told me where I'd find them, and I knew exactly where they were because I used to own that warehouse where they kept them. One night at about 1 a.m., I got in one of my old trucks and drove down there. I crashed right through the gate and smashed it to hell. I hooked the gun up to my rig and drove off. If you knew the fucking vultures in this business, you'd do the same. We get everything half-ass legal."

A few minutes later, Bob Cassilly arrives by bulldozer to the top of the hill. He's heard plenty of tales about the Inaugural and its sinking, but the story of the anti-aircraft gun is a new one to him. That said, Stasiak shouldn't expect Cassilly — or Patzius — to cough up the gun anytime soon.

"That's a good one," Cassilly says. "But all I know is that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that gun is on my property." The U.S.S. Inaugural survived World War II. But then the old warship met a more formidable enemy — the Mississippi River.

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