Steel-hulled and built to look like a mini-Titanic, the 240-foot Williamsburg started out in the early 1930s as the Aras, a private yacht. She became a patrol gunboat during World War II. But it was as President Harry S. Truman’s yacht that she gained acclaim as his "seagoing White House."
Truman loved to do business on the Williamsburg as much as he loved the ship itself.
Over his seven tumultuous years as president, discussions on board with leaders including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – often over card games and long bourbons - led to decisions that still affect the world today: the launch of the Cold War, the Marshall Plan, NATO, the Korean War, and the creation of Israel, to name but a few.
But, for the past 20 years, the USS Williamsburg has barely kept afloat in a quaint backwater in northern Italy.
The vessel's Italian owners – who run a shipyard – say that in four or five years it will likely sink from its own decay and will be cut up for scrap. How did it come to this? And what can be done to save it?
Ask Gianfranco Oddone, a man on a mission. Oddone is a retired ship repairman who once was a high school exchange student in Truman’s home town of Lamar, Mo. He will tell anyone who listens about the Williamsburg’s saga, as he seeks out a buyer who’ll sail this piece of Americana back to where Oddone believes it belongs -- in the U.S.