An inoperable WWI-era machine gun with a value of about $20,000...

An inoperable WWI-era machine gun with a value of about $20,000 was reported stolen over the weekend from the roof of the Bay Shore Marine Corps League Detachment, Suffolk police said Monday. Credit: SCPD

An inoperable World War I-era machine gun was reported stolen over the weekend from the rooftop of a Bay Shore building housing a Marine Corps veterans group, said Suffolk police, who are seeking tips from the public to help catch the perpetrator.

The machine gun was reported stolen Saturday. The theft occurred earlier this month, according to police. 

The German-made relic of World War I had been a fixture on the roof of the Marine Corps Suffolk County Detachment, located on the Sunrise Highway service road in Bay Shore.

"That somebody had the gall to get up on that roof and take something from a bunch of veterans?" said post commandant Carmine Raineiri on Monday. "I just don't get it, but that's people."

Raineiri, 78, of Shirley, said the detachment, which has veterans from the Army, Air Force and Navy in addition to the Marines, dates to 1975. The gun has been there longer than most of the members, said Raineiri, who didn't know how the post acquired the weapon. It's not only inoperable, he added, but the antique was also weatherworn from decades of exposure to the salt air.

"You can't use it," said the Vietnam-era Marine Corps sergeant of the MG 08 heavy machine gun. "It's been on a roof for God knows how long … and whoever took it, all I can think of is they were going to sell it for scrap."

Police put the MG 08 heavy machine gun's value at about $20,000.

Said Raineiri: "It's not like something you can put on display, even in your basement. It's rusted."

Called the Maschinengewehr 08, the machine gun is the type that served as the German Army's primary heavy machine gun during World War I — using 250-round belts of 7.92x57 mm ammunition and up to 500 rounds per minute — and, according to history websites, was often referred to as the Spandau MG 08, having been manufactured by Spandau Arsenal, the Imperial Germany infantry weapons development center. The MG 08 weighs more than 140 pounds.

"They had a lot of guts, taking it," said Raineiri, who serviced McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom jets at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina — made famous in The Great Santini, the 1979 film with Robert Duvall.

Detectives ask anyone with information on the theft to contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. 

All calls, texts and emails will remain confidential, police said, and tipsters are eligible for a cash reward for any information leading to an arrest in the case. Raineiri   The MG 08 heavy machine gun was valued at about $20,000, police said.

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