Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Washington, November 19 (QNA) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet on Thursday with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the Libyan Leader's son, a senior official at the U.S. State Department said.
Another U.S. official announced on Monday that the meeting will be on Tuesday, however, Gaddafi's son met with Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East David Welch.
Saif al-Islam runs the Gaddafi Foundation which has played an important role to resolve the conflict between Washington and Tripoli on the compensations for the terrorism victims in the eighties of the last century.
On Monday, U.S. President George W. Bush made a phone call with Libyan Leader Muammar al-Gaddafi to voice his satisfaction that Libya had settled a long-standing dispute over terrorist attacks and that "this agreement should help to bring a painful chapter in the history between our two countries closer to closure". (QNA)
Washington - President George W Bush called Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to voice his satisfaction with a US$1,5-billion payment that Tripoli made to settle a long-standing dispute over terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Scotland, the White House said on Monday.
In their conversation, Bush and Gaddafi "discussed that this agreement should help to bring a painful chapter in the history between our two countries closer to closure", White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.
Libya's October 31 payment cleared the last hurdle in restoration of full normalisation of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli.
The money will go into a $1,8-billion fund that will pay $1,5-billion in claims for the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 bombing of a German disco.
Another $300-million will go to Libyan victims of US airstrikes ordered in retaliation for the disco bombing.
David Welch, a State department diplomat who negotiated the agreement, said at the time that payments to US victims' families should start within days, and family groups hailed the news.
"While we will always mourn the loss of life as a result of past terrorist activities, the settlement agreement is an important step in repairing the relationship between Libya and the United States," said the statement that Johndroe released on Monday.
"Libya has taken important steps on the road to normalising its relations with the international community, beginning with its renunciation in 2003 of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," the statement said.
"The United States will continue to work on the bilateral relationship with Libya, with the aim of establishing a dialogue that encompasses all subjects, including human rights reform and the fight against terrorism." - Sapa-AP
17 Nov. 2008 VOA News:
The White House said President George Bush has called Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to thank him for following through on a pledge that settles a long-standing dispute between the two countries over terrorist attacks in the 1980s.
A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, Monday said the two leaders agreed that the deal should help bring "a painful chapter in the history" between the two countries "closer to closure."
On October 31, Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund for families of the victims of Libyan-backed terrorist attacks, including the 1988 downing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco.
The move cleared the final obstacle in full normalization of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli. As part of
the deal, President Bush signed an executive order granting Libya immunity from any pending legal action in U.S. courts.
The White House said the United States will keep working on its relationship with Libya, with the goal of establishing a dialogue that "includes all subjects" -- including human rights, reform and the fight against terrorism.
After the Berlin disco bombing, the U.S. carried out retaliatory air strikes on Libya's capital and on the city of Benghazi in 1986. Washington is providing $300 million to a fund to compensate Libyan victims of those strikes.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
On Dec. 21, 1988, my brother was killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 when it was bombed by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two decades later, my family and the families of the 189 other Americans killed on that flight are finally able to claim some form of justice for our lost loved ones.
The Scottish high court convictedf one Libyan intelligence officer for his involvement after the initial investigation, but the complexities of a crime perpetrated by a foreign government made it impossible to seek traditional criminal justice for all those responsible, so we turned to the civil court.
After many painful years of negotiations, the Libyan government finally agreed to pay $10 million to each victim's family. The first 80 percent of this sum was paid as planned, but the Libyan government withheld the remaining 20 percent as it negotiated restored diplomatic relations with the United States. The closer the restoration of these ties came, the harder we fought to ensure that the Libyan government was held accountable for its debt.
In July, the United States and Libya agreed that relations could be normalized only after Libya paid its full debt for its state-sponsored terrorism. On Oct. 31, teh Libyan government executed full payment to the victims and their families.
While we may never know the names of all those involved in this crime or see them face the punisment they so justly deserve, we can gain some peace from forcing th Libyan government to be accountable for its crimes.
We thank Sen. Frank Lautenberg and others who stood by us the last two decades.
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103
Cherry Hill, N.J.
August 29, 2008
London - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son on Friday said Tripoli only accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing to get sanctions lifted and slammed the victims' "greedy" families.
Seif al-Islam admitted the move was hypocritical, adding he believed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the bombing, was not responsible for the bombing.
A total of 270 people were killed when Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York blew up over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in 1988.
Asked if Libya accepts responsibility for the bombing, Seif al-Islam said in a BBC interview: "Yes, we wrote a letter to the Security Council (in 2003) saying we're responsible for the acts of our employees, our people but it doesn't mean that we did it in fact."
He added: "What can you do? Without writing that letter, you will not be able to get rid of the sanction... I admit we played with the words. We had to, we had to, there was no other solution."
Libya was brought back in from the cold after a decade of Security Council sanctions following the letter.
Relations with the US, which were cut off in 1981, were restored in 2004, a few weeks after Gaddafi announced that Tripoli was abandoning efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Libya next week, the first such trip by a top US diplomat since 1953.
Seif al-Islam also pulled no punches in criticising the families of victims, to whom Libya agreed to pay compensation in a move which he himself brokered.
"I think they (the families) were very greedy and they were trading with the blood of their sons and daughters," he said.
"The position with them, it was very terrible and it was very materialistic and it was very greedy and they were asking for money and more money and more money and more money.
"And they were talking just about money. Money money money money."
He added that the families should stop "blackmailing" Libya and work with Tripoli "to find the real criminal who's behind that attack".
Asked if Megrahi was that person, he said: "I don't think that poor guy is behind that sophisticated operation... I'm sure that that poor guy is not sophisticated and clever and capable enough to carry out that job".
Megrahi was found guilty by a trio of judges at a special court under Scottish law in the Netherlands in 2001 and sentenced to 27 years in jail. He is appealing the verdict.
Seif al-Islam added that he hoped and believed Libya was not behind the Lockerbie attack.
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, told the BBC that many relatives of victims would find the comments "deeply offensive" but added he thought this was "the Arab way of doing things".
"The Libyans have achieved what they want - and Western commerce has got what it wants too. In this, many of us feel like pawns," he said.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
President Bush Attends Rededication Ceremony of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
New York, New York
12:27 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you for the warm welcome. Be seated. Charles and Rich, thanks a lot. I gratefully accept the Freedom Award. And I'm honored to be with you today as we rededicate a great monument to freedom: the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. At this ceremony, we recognize nearly 55,000 Americans who served aboard the USS Intrepid, including some who are here today. And we commemorate Veterans Day by honoring all those who have worn the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. Thank you for serving our great nation. (Applause.)
I am proud to be traveling with the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush -- (applause) -- the most patient woman in America. (Laughter.) Governor, thank you for joining us; Secretary Kempthorne. Senator Hillary Clinton, I'm proud to be with you. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) Congressman Pete King, Congressman Charlie Rangel, Congress Anthony Weiner -- thank you all for joining us today. Looking forward to that lame-duck session, aren't we? (Laughter.)
What an awesome guy General Jim Conway is, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs. (Applause.) Christine Quinn, thank you for your remarks. Bill White, the Vanna White of the Intrepid. (Laughter.) Arnold Fisher and the Fisher family -- what a fabulous contribution the Fishers have made to the United States of America, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause.)
John Rich, fellow Texan. John, tell them we're coming home, and we're coming home with our heads held high. (Applause.)
Members of the Intrepid Museum and Foundation Board of Trustees, Wounded Warriors -- you know, oftentimes they ask me, what are you going to miss about the presidency? And first reaction is, I say, no traffic jams in New York. The truth of the matter is, I will miss being the Commander-in-Chief of such a fabulous group of men and women -- those who wear the uniform of the United States military. (Applause.)
Veterans Day has a long and solemn history. The event that inspired it took place 90 years ago today, in a small railway car in a French forest. November the 11th, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice that ended one of the bloodiest wars the world had ever witnessed. By the time that day arrived, World War I had raged for more than four years, and more than 8 million soldiers had given their lives. But on the 11th hour of the 11th day of that 11th month, the guns fell silent -- and peace began to return to Europe.
To commemorate the war's end, President Woodrow Wilson declared that November the 11th should be remembered as Armistice Day -- a holiday to honor the brave sacrifices of the American soldiers who defended democracy and freedom overseas. Today, we know it as Veterans Day -- a day when we celebrate and thank and honor every man and woman who have served in our Armed Forces.
These noble Americans are our sons and daughters. They are our fathers and mothers. They are our family and they are our friends. They leave home to do the work of patriots -- and they lead lives of quiet dignity when they return. Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most. (Applause.)
In the years since we began celebrating Veterans Day, America's Armed Forces have defended our freedom in many conflicts. And in those conflicts, they have often relied on the might of the USS Intrepid.
The great ship's keel was laid on December 1, 1941. Less than a week later, Pearl Harbor was attacked -- and America entered World War II. In the years to come, as the United States Navy defended the freedom in the Pacific, the men of "the Fighting I" would be in the thick of the battle. The Intrepid participated in the invasion of the Marshall Islands. She played a key role in the amphibious assault on Okinawa. She was part of one of the greatest sea battles in history: the Battles of Leyte Gulf.
In that massive engagement, American forces faced some of the most formidable elements of the Japanese Navy. The Japanese fleet included the Yamamato* and the Musashi -- these were the heaviest and the largest battleships ever constructed. The Imperial Navy approached the coast of the Philippines from three different directions, and it was a fearsome challenge -- but the men of this ship were ready. The Intrepid's Air Group fought courageously and without rest. By the time the battle ended three days later, the United States Navy had sunk the Musashi to the ocean floor, and lifted hopes for victory in the Pacific.
The war ended the following year, but the Intrepid's mission did not end. As the United States raced into the new frontier of space, the Intrepid stood by to retrieve astronauts returning to Earth. During the Cold War, she patrolled the Mediterranean and helped force the surrender of pro-Castro terrorists who had hijacked a freighter in the Caribbean, and did three tours off the waters of Vietnam. For our nation's bicentennial celebration, the United States Congress paid a fitting tribute to this ship's extraordinary service when they selected the Intrepid to represent the United States Navy in Philadelphia.
After more than 30 years at sea, the Intrepid was permanently decommissioned. Despite her amazing history, she was destined to be scrapped. But thanks to the work of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, she found a home in New York City. Since 1982, she has been a museum that educates new generations of Americans about the high price that those who came before them paid for their freedom.
One of the veterans who has been honored here was a Navy pilot who flew Avenger torpedo planes during World War II. When he was invited onboard the Intrepid for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he was moved to see that the museum had arranged for a vintage Avenger painted in the style of his unit to be right here on the deck. It just so happens that it was flanked by two of the men who had flown in his squadron. The man the Intrepid honored that day is a great American. He's a dedicated servant to this country, and I can tell you from personal experience he's a fabulous father. (Applause.)
Even as a museum, the Intrepid still answered the call to service. I'm pretty certain most Americans don't understand what I'm about to tell you, but on September the 11th, when we came attacked just a few blocks from here, the Intrepid was used as an emergency command center. First responders launched helicopters from the decks. It became clear that this ship -- which helped defeat the great totalitarian threats of the 20th century -- was front and center in the opening moments of a new struggle against the forces of hatred and fear.
The war on terror has required courage; it has required resolve equal to what previous generations of Americans brought to the fields of Europe and the deep waters of the Pacific. And I'm proud to report to my fellow citizens, our Armed Forces, the Armed Forces of this generation, have showed up for the fight, and America is more secure for it. (Applause.)
This morning, Laura and I flew up here with some brave men and women who are keeping us safe. I want to introduce them to you.
Staff Sergeant Michael Noyce-Merino was the first National Guardsman ever to be named the Army's Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Senior Airman Alicia Goetschel was named one of the Air Force's Outstanding Airmen of the Year for her work in keeping dangerous extremists off the streets of Iraq. Chief Petty Officer Shenequa Cox won several awards recognizing her as one of the Navy's finest sailors. Petty Officer First Class Chris Hutto was honored as the Coast Guard's Enlisted Person of the Year. And United States Marine Sergeant John Badon's bravery earned him two Purple Hearts for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Where are my new pals? God bless you. (Applause.)
They are representative of the finest our nation offers. And they have the support of strong and caring and loving families. And so on this Veterans Day, not only do we honor those who have worn the uniform, those who are wearing the uniform -- we honor their families. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
We have a moral obligation to support our families, and we have a moral obligation to support our veterans. It has been my privilege to work with members of the United States Congress to nearly double the funding for those who have worn the uniform. It has been my privilege to work to implement the recommendations from the Dole-Shalala Commission, to make sure that we have a mental health care system and physical health care system worthy of the sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform.
It has been my privilege to work with the United States Congress to expand education benefits for both members of our military as well as our veterans. It has been my privilege to say loud and clear to our veterans, we love you, we respect you, and we thank you for serving the United States of America. (Applause.)
And I love what the Intrepid Relief Fund and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund have done to support our veterans, as well. It provided more than $100 million to military families in need. The Intrepid's Fisher House program has provided temporary housing for families of servicemen and women receiving medical treatment.
At the Center for the Intrepid's physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, Texas, America's wounded warriors receive some incredible medical care. I have seen what happens in this place of healing and hope firsthand. The Intrepid Center brings great compassion to those who have worn and are wearing the uniform. It also shows that the American people are incredibly generous in supporting the veterans. And I want to thank the Intrepid members, and those who support the Intrepid foundations, for your work on behalf of our country.
Throughout the decades, our servicemen and women have shown a spirit of selfless courage. I was impressed by the story of Alonzo Swann, who on October 29, 1944, here on the deck of the Intrepid, had to help his fellow sailors deal with a kamikaze attack. He saw his best friend burning alive and caught in a gun mount. He rushed into the flames. He attempted to save his buddy, but before he could do so, an ammunition then detonated; nine were killed, six injured, including Alonzo.
For his bravery, he was awarded the Bronze Star. It's a high honor, but a lot of folks didn't think it was a high enough honor. They felt he deserved the Navy Cross, and many believed that he had been denied the Navy Cross because of the color of his skin; he was an African American. For 50 years, his advocates petitioned the government -- and for 50 years they were unsuccessful. But he kept the faith. November 3, 1993, under the presidency of my predecessor, President Bill Clinton, right here on the deck of the Intrepid, Alonzo Swann finally received his Navy Cross. And I want people to listen to what he said. He said, "If you think you're right, fight your heart out." That ought to be the motto of the modern United States military. You think you're right, and you're fighting your heart out for the sake of peace and freedom, and we thank you for it. (Applause.)
Laura and I are honored to be here. We're honored to see this majestic place. I love the fact that parents can answer a child's question about "Why fight?" with this answer: These brave souls fought for freedom, they fought for liberty, and they fought to guarantee the rights given to us by our Creator, and that has been the history of our Armed Forces -- brave folks, the mightiest defenders of those unalienable rights.
So on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank our veterans for your service, for your commitment. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Do you think people will remember the events of September 11, 2001 two centuries from now?
The original USS Intrepid exploded in Tripoli harbor on September 4, 1804, over two hundred years ago and we are still experiencing the aftershocks today.
They're still trying to tidy up the legal affairs left dangling in the explosion of the Intrepid, the bombing of a German disco, Pan Am over Lockerbee and the bombing of Quadafi's home. While reparations are being paid out on both sides of this fence, there is still the issue of the repatriation of the remains of the 13 sailors of the Intrepid and the body of Capt. Paul F. Laurence, whose plane was lost on the Operation El Dorado Canyon mission that attacked Quadafi's home.
If we are going to pay reparations to the families of those killed in that action, we should require the Libyans to be accountable for the remains of Capt. Laurence, and the men of the Intrepid.
Secretary of State Condi Rice visted Quadafi in Tripol in September 5, 2008, two hundred and four years to the day that the victims of the Intrepid washed ashore Tripoli harbor. The negotiations continue, yet the names of the men of the Intrepid have not yet even been publically raised as an issue to date.
With the arrival of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier back to its home berth on Manhattan's West Side in November, this Veterans Day is a prime opportunity to remember the men of the original USS Intrepid, relay their stories to inspire others and to continue the efforts to repatriate their remains home.
Someday soon the men of the original USS Intrepid will be returned, and after repatriation cremonies aboard the Intrepid carrier, they will recieve a proper burrial, with full miliary honors, just as it is done for those who die abroad today.
In many respects we are only now winding up the war they began over two hundred years ago, and the principles we fight for today are the same as what they fought for - freedom, liberty and democracy, and the things we fight against - tyranny, slavery and piracy, issues that ring true today and tie our mutual histories together.
This Veterans Day is one week past election day, and the repatriation of the men of the Intrepid is a non-partisan regardless of the outcome. As with all Deep Political events like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the political assassinaitons of the Sixties, there is no Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative side, so this is one non-partisan issue that can get people to work together to make happen. And then we may be able to work togther on other issues too.
Remember the Men of the original Intrepid on Veterans Day, as they best represent the basic issues that we are fighting for today.
The Men of the USS INTREPID – September 4, 1804 – Tripoli Harbor
Master Commandant Richard Somers
Lt. Henry Wadsworth
Midshipman Joseph Israel (14 years old)
From the USS Constitution
From the USS Nautilus
James “Bos’n” Simms
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Freshly painted in naval "haze gray" fand once again shipshape from stem to stern, the fabled survivor of Pacific war battles and five kamikaze suicide attacks will be towed up New York Harbor and slotted into its familiar Hudson River berth on Thursday.
The floating military and space museum will reopen to the public on Nov. 8, with a large celebration on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. On the enclosed hanger deck, the museum will offer new exhibits and facilities for public events, along with visitor access to crew quarters and other spaces previously off-limits.
Racing the Clock to Bring Back the Intrepid
By PATRICK McGEEHAN
Published: May 21, 2008
Getting stuck in the mud on its first attempt to leave Manhattan was not the last or the least of the troubles that the aircraft carrier Intrepid has encountered in the past 18 months.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
The Intrepid houses a museum that was at risk of going out of business last year, as the costs of overhauling the carrier and rebuilding its home pier rose past $100 million, almost double the original estimate. More Photos »
A High-Priced Voyage Home The military museum the ship houses was at risk of going out of business last year, as the costs of overhauling the carrier and rebuilding its home pier spiraled past $100 million, almost double the original estimate, said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. To keep the work going and to stay on schedule to reopen this fall, the museum’s directors borrowed against the museum’s $15 million endowment, a move they had promised never to make, Mr. White said.
“This museum and this whole project was in danger of shutting down,” Mr. White said. “If we hadn’t taken this drastic measure to use the endowment, which I consider sacred, for this purpose, there would be no more Intrepid — unless someone was willing to write a check for 15, 20 million bucks.”
Now, with an electronic timer on a pier on the West Side counting down the days to the Intrepid’s return, museum officials are still pleading for additional public and private financing to complete the renovations on time. On the schedule that the museum set, the ship is due to be towed back from Staten Island on Oct. 2 — 134 days from Tuesday — and to have its official reopening on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
For most of the past year, the 900-foot-long carrier has been the only warship moored at the Homeport on the north shore of Staten Island. But this week, it will have company when some active military ships sail in for Fleet Week, an event that revolved around the Intrepid until last year.
To bring the ship back in style, Mr. White has pressed the trustees of the foundation that runs the museum and other supporters to pitch in $10 million. He also has lobbied elected officials, including the city’s five borough presidents and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, to add as much as $10 million to the $25 million they already had promised to the Intrepid project.
But he has failed to persuade Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to let the museum sell naming rights to the pier, now known simply as Pier 86, to a corporation, said John Gallagher, a spokesman for the mayor. The mayor is considering allowing the sale of sponsorship of the Intrepid’s visitor center, which sits at the edge of the pier, Mr. Gallagher said.
With the city budget being squeezed, city officials have not decided how much, if any, additional money they will provide.
“We are aware that the Intrepid has been facing financial challenges and that the renovation expenses are exceeding their original budget,” said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesman for the Council. He added that the Council expected the ship to float back on time, with or without additional public money.
Moving the Intrepid became synonymous with futility in November 2006 when, with a clutch of elected officials standing by, a team of tugboats failed to budge the carrier from its mooring. City officials required the removal so that the pier could be rebuilt. After the Navy dredged out more of the muck, tugs towed the ship away for the first time in 25 years.
To prevent a repeat of that initial embarrassment, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to dig an extra-wide slot in the river bottom before the return, Mr. White said. In all, the cost of moving the ship out and back will total about $19 million, four times the original estimate, he said.
The main improvements to the ship’s exterior were completed a year ago, when it spent a few weeks in dry dock in Bayonne, N.J., en route to the Homeport. Workers at Bayonne Dry Dock and Repair patched up parts of the hull and repainted the entire ship.
But when the time came for the dry dock operator to collect nearly $5 million for its work, the city funds were not yet available. Officials of the Hudson River Park Trust, the state authority that is the Intrepid’s landlord and manages payments to the contractors, asked the museum to come up with some other money to tide the company over.
Mr. White said he scraped together $100,000 and hand-delivered a check to Bayonne. The trust later paid off the debt and repaid the Intrepid’s $100,000, according to Noreen Doyle, a vice president of the trust. Ms. Doyle said the tight schedule set by the Intrepid’s managers necessitated such unusual measures.
“The whole thing has been crunch time,” Ms. Doyle said. “It’s a very aggressive project schedule.” Rebuilding the pier also will cost much more than initially expected. Mr. White said the original estimate for the pier was about $38 million. But with the prices of essential materials like steel and cement having soared and various amenities having been added to the pier, the total cost will exceed $60 million, he said.
A High-Priced Voyage Home At a board meeting in March, the Hudson River Park Trust’s directors approved an increase of $620,000, or about 40 percent, on the amount to be paid to Skanska, the construction manager for Pier 86 to account for all of the changes to the pier rebuilding plan.
A few weeks ago, workers installed the first of two stair towers that visitors will climb to reach the Intrepid’s main decks. Eventually, the pier, which will offer free access to the public, will have trees, seating and, if the museum can arrange its retrieval, a Concorde supersonic jet.
Before the ship left, museum officials struck a deal to temporarily move the plane from a barge tied to the pier to a recreation complex in Brooklyn. The original operators of that complex, Aviator Sports, agreed to pay $15,000 a month to borrow the plane and promised to return it this fall. But the managers who took over last year did not inherit that obligation, and Mr. White said he did not know who would pay for its return, at an estimated cost of at least $250,000.
Another of the museum’s popular exhibitions, a decommissioned submarine that carried missiles with nuclear warheads, the Growler, produced an unpleasant surprise when it was towed to Brooklyn. The crew found holes in the sub’s hull, pushing the cost of repairing it past $1 million, Mr. White said.
Getting the museum ready to welcome paying visitors again will be another matter. Last week, moored next to a fire boat at the Homeport on Staten Island, the dark gray Intrepid looked more like an abandoned warehouse than a museum.
Weeds sprouted from its flight deck. The wooden surface of one its exterior elevators had been crushed by forklifts that hoisted equipment on and off the ship.
Inside its cavernous hangar deck stood several vintage warplanes and helicopters that had been restored, their wings and rotors shrouded in plastic wrap. The only sounds emanated from the machines four young men in face masks used to strip the top layer off the steel floor.
With less than five months remaining on the deadline clock, Mr. White and his staff are pushing an ambitious plan to revamp most of the ship’s interior. They have hired a design firm to reinstall the exhibitions in a more cohesive layout and open to the public sections of the ship where crewmen worked, slept and ate. The aim, said Susan Marenoff, the museum’s executive director, will be to emphasize “the humanity behind the hardware.”
Mr. White said he also hoped to repair a flight elevator that carried fighter planes to the top deck for takeoff so that museumgoers could ride it. He said that executives of Otis Elevator Company had agreed to fix the giant platform and that the Disabled American Veterans had pledged to sponsor that part of the project. Dave Autry, a spokesman for the veterans group in Washington, said its charitable trust had recommended a grant of $450,000 for the repair.
“We can’t just slap a paint job” on the ship, Mr. White said. “We need to make a new museum. It’s got to come back brand-spanking new.”
Mr. White acknowledged that the museum probably would not be exactly shipshape when it returned. The last few weeks before the reopening will be a true scramble. Along with completing the interior redesign, the remaining tasks will include connecting the new power and plumbing lines from the pier. Crews will also have to adjust for the ship’s rising and falling with the Hudson River tides until the muck takes hold of it again.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Remember the POWs of the USS Philadelphia
An eyewitness account of the capture of the frigate USS Philadelphia off Tripoli and the 19 months imprisonment of the 315 officers and members of the crew in the castle dungeon.
From the Memoir of Commodore David Porter (1875)
…The Enterprise was the first vessel that had the satisfaction of humbling the pride and lowering the flag of these corsairs. Nothwithstanding the Tripolitan admiral had assured Commodore Gale that no war existed against the United States, on the part of Tripoli, on the first of August, 1801, the Enterprise fell in with a polacre-rigged vessel near the island of Malta, mounting 14 guns (and carrying Tripolitan colors), that was known to be cruising against our commerce. As soon as the colors were recognized, the Enterprise cleared for action, and ran down close to the enemy. As Lieut. Com. Sterrett got within pistol shot he opened his batteries, and continued for three hours to pour in a heavy fire, at the end of which time the Triplotian struck his colors. The polacre was superior in every respect to her antagonist, but the precision of the American’s fire told fearfully upon the enemy and her crew, while the beautiful manner in which the Enterprise was handled (taking whatever position she chose and raking her enemy several times), elicited the admiration even of the corsairs. There are no braver people than the Turks, but on this occasion though they fought desperately they exhibited very little skill. The Corsair lost fifty men in killed and wounded, and the ship was a perfect wreck, her mizzen mast shot away and her yards and sails cut to pieces. On the other hand, owing to the skill with which the Enterprise was handled she received little damage. Three times during the combat did the Tripolitians strike their colors, renewing the fight again when they thought they saw an opportunity of redeeming the fortunes of the day; till at last Lieut. Com. Sterrett, irritated by this treachery, opened fire, with a determination to sink his enemy; when the Tripolitans threw their flag into the sea and cried for quarter. The Tripolitan proved to be the Tripoli commanded by Mahomet Sous, the latter confessed to his orders from the bashaw were to capture American merchant vessels….
….In the latter part of April, 1802, Commodore Morris arrived off Tripoli with the New York, Adams, and Enterprise, and as the squadron stood towards the harbor several small vessels, convoyed by gun boats, were seen close in with the land and making the best of their way to the port of Tripoli. The squadron immediately gave chase, and the enemy finding themselves cut off from the harbor, sent the merchantmen into the port of old Tripoli; while the gun boats, by means of their sweeps, were enabled to pull under the shelter of the batteries….It was impossible for the squadron to follow them in, for the port was full of reefs and there were no reliable charts. A large stone building stood on a bank, near the shore, which was occupied by a body of soldiers, and on each side were thrown up breastworks, composed of stacks of wheat taken from the merchant vessels, which were themselves finally hauled up high and dry on the beach close to the building, and a large reinforcement of troops were brought over from the city to man the breastworks. The best engineer could not have made a better disposition of forces, and the Tripolitans might well consider their works impregnable to an assault by boats and sailors…..
In the latter part of 1803, the Philadelphia 38, Capt. Bainbridge, was directed by the commodore to proceed to Tripoli accompanied by the schooner Vixen, Lieut. Commandant Smith, and keep up as close a blockade of that port as the weather would permit….Lieut. Porter had been transferred from the New York to the Philadelphia, as first lieutenant. He was now twenty-three years of age, and had been five years in the service, but in common with other officers of the period he exhibited remarkable proficiency in his profession, and handled a ship with as much skill as an old seaman could have done....
….The navy of those days was a fine school to bring out in relief the noble qualities of those brave spirits who were ready to make any sacrifice, and run any risk in the cause of their country. All seemed ready to share each other’s dangers, and divide the honors won by all…..
Under the care of her experienced captain and energetic first lieutenant, the Philadelphia as in most excellent order, and under the gallant Preble (who was expected shortly to take command of the squadron), the officers expected glorious opportunities for distinction; but all were doomed to severe disappointment by the loss of the ship off the harbor of Tripoli. At 9 A.M. on the 31 of October, 1802, while the frigate was about five leagues off shore, to the eastward of Tripoli, a ship was descried in shore standing to the westward before the wind. Chase was immediately given to the stranger, who hoisted Tripolitan colors and continued her course close along the coast. About eleven o’clock, the frigate was so near the shore that the water shoaled to seven fathoms. The Philadelphia then commenced firing on the enemy, which was kept up by running before the wind for half an hour, when, finding it impossible to prevent the vessel’s escape, the pursuit was abandoned. The frigate then bore off the land to get into deep water, but ran on to some sunken rocks, leaving her with only twelve feet of water forward, and seventeen aft. In spite of all the precautions which had been taken to prevent such a disaster, by keeping three leads constantly going, the ship struck the rocks with about eight knots headway. All sail was immediately set to force her over what was supposed to be a bank, but which was in reality a smooth shelving rock, on which the vessel had run as far as her impetus would carry her, and there she lay hard and fast. Finding that his attempt to force the ship over did not succeed, Captain Bainbridge asked the advice of the first lieutenant as to what was best to be done, and the latter advised a consultation with the commissioned officers. Meanwhile perfect order reigned throughout the vessel, and all hands were busy in efforts to get her off.
Boats were lowered, and soundings soon showed that there was no deep water near the vessel, and it was apparent to all that without some stroke of good fortune she would be lost. The enemy’s gun boats, nine in number, were soon seen coming out of the harbor of Tripoli, and cautiously approaching to reconnoiter the Philadelphia, of whose condition they were apparently aware. At length repeated soundings showed deep water astern, when the sails were braced aback, the guns run aft, and the anchors cut from the bow; but all attempts to move the ship were unavailing. All the guns were hove overboard, with the exception of a few reserved for defense against the advancing gun boats. Meanwhile the frigate had heeled over very much to port, in which position she remained fixed, and the enemy passing under the fire from the stern battery, took up a position on the starboard and weather quarter, where no guns could be brought to bear on them.
It was now that Capt. Bainbridge realized the mistake he had made in sending off the Vixon in search of a Tripolitan cruiser, that had got to sea a short time previous. This had left him alone in the frigate to blockade a port where the chasing had to be done in-shore and in shoal water, a duty which could be far better performed in a vessel of light draft. Moreover, had the Vixon been present she could have kept the enemy’s gun boats at bay while the frigate was being extricated from her perilous position.
Capt. Bainbrige now summoned another council of war, who were of opinion that the water in the hold should be started and pumped out, then all heavy articles were thrown overboard, and finally the foremast was cut away; but all this had no effect in moving the ship. Orders were then given for the carpenter to bore holes through the bottom, and for the gunner to drown the magazine, in fact every precaution was taken to render the ship useless as the Tripolitians, should they unfortunately obtain possession of her.
During these operations, the enemy having taken a position where they could not be harmed by any fire from the Americans, kept up the attack from half past one o’clock until sunset; but the Philadelphia appears to have suffered from it only in her spars and rigging. It was now evidently impossible to prevent the capture of the Philadelphia; and to prevent a useless sacrifice of the lives of his officers and men, Capt. Bainbrige gave the order to strike the colors. Up to this time the enemy had kept at a respectful distance, but no sooner were the colors hauled down, than the gun boats made a rush for the frigate, and in ten minutes the decks were swarming with pirates, who began to plunder the unfortunate Americans of everything they possessed, even stripping off their clothing, and leaving them nearly naked.
The officers were soon carried before the bashaw, who was highly delighted at this capture of prisoners to add to his list of slaves, but on the whole his reception of them was not unkind, and they were conducted to the late American consulate, and place under the particular charge of the minister of foreign affairs, Mahommed D Ghines, with whom they had no difficulty in communicating as he spoke French fluently. Considering that the bashaw was a barbarian his treatment of the prisoners was generous. They were supplied with sufficient food, but suffered greatly for want of clothing. Most of the officers had laid in a three years outfit, and had lost everything except what they stood in when captured. How they were to be clothed in future, unless they adopted the Turkish costume, they were at a loss to imagine.
Fortunately, they found a friend in the person of Mr. Nissen, the Danish consul, who was introduced to Capt. Bainbrige by Mahommed D Ghines, and this gentleman immediately relieved the prisoners’ anxiety, promising them every assistance in his power, which promise he kept to the letter. The minister, Mahommed D Ghines, also manifested the most friendly disposition, intimating to the prisoners that they might depend upon humanity; and Mr. Nissen, having done all that he could for them at the time, the officers found themselves much better situated than they had reason to expect from the rough treatment to which they were subjected when first captured.
Up to the time of the capture of the Philadelphia, the bashaw had received from the Americans nothing but humiliation, or to use the figurative language of the Turks, "The Christian dogs had made him eat dirt." He had made few or no captures of American merchant vessels, and his corsair ships had been either captured or blockaded in some foreign port. The capture of the Tripoli, and the treatment of the vessel, was the greatest indignity that this Barbary despot had ever received; and, under the circumstances, it seems wonderful that the bashaw should have been so complaisant as to address words of consolation to his prisoners. The bashaw had begun to feel very despondent, for independently of his losses he felt that his influence among his subjects was declining, and when this feeling arises in barbarous countries, especially when distrust occurs among the troops, the distance from the throne to the grave is short, the bow string is put in requisition, and does it work effectually. But this night the bashaw felt particularly joyous, and so he said, "Let the Christian dogs eat, drink and be merry, for they will bring us a ransom more than the value of the vessels we have lost."
Next morning the Tripolitans set to work to get the Philadelphia afloat. The frigate was on shore about three miles from Tripoli, and as the corsairs had plenty of large launches, anchors, and cables, and an unlimited number of men, they felt sanguine of saving the vessel. Two days after they got to work the wind came out strong from the northwest, and forcing the water up on the African coast the ship’s stern floated. Anchors were now carried out astern, the whole force at the disposal of the bashaw was applied to the work, and in three days from the commencement of operations the Tripolitans had the Philadelphia afloat. She was towed to within a short distance of town, and there remained until the weather abated; the Tripolitans pumping night and day to keep her free of water.
The Americans supposed that they had effectually destroyed the pumps by dropping shot into them, but if such was the case the Tripolitans soon rigged up others, and the carpenter had scuttled the ship so imperfectly that the holes were stopped without much trouble. Barbarians as they were, the Tripolitans were smart sailors, and taking advantage of the good weather following the northwest gale, they not only succeeded in taking the Philadelphia into port, but in weighing all the guns and anchors which lay in the clear shallow water around the ship, so that there was scare and article thrown overboard that was not recovered.
The American prisoners were deeply mortified to see the Philadelphia repaired as well as circumstances would admit, the guns all mounted, and the anchors in their paces. They had confidently expected that she would have thumped her bottom out in the northwest blow, but it happened she was to leeward of a reef, and the sea broke over her without lifting her much, which accounts for her not going to pieces.
The unwonted kindness of the bashaw did not long continue. From the first he had intended to treat his prisoners as circumstances might occur. He had no doubt that the United States government would now listen to reason, and enable him to propose his own terms of peace. He had three hundred and fifteen prisoners, including twenty-two quarter-deck officers, and rightly supposed that there would be great excitement in the United States over the reduction of all these people to slavery; and hoped to obtain a large amount of money by way of ransom. Previous to this, the bashaw, rather alarmed by the determined attitude of our government, had seemed inclined to listen to terms of peace, but having now gained what he considered a great advantage, he was anxious to continue to the war.
Commodore Preble, who was now in command of the squadron, immediately on hearing of the capture of the Philadelphia, made a proper disposition of his forces, and arrived off Tripoli in the later part of December 1803; but after communicating with Capt. Bainbridge and learning the situation of affairs; he returned in the Constitution to his headquarters at Syracuse, as hostile operations could not be conducted at that season of the year. The first proposition to destroy the Philadelphia came from Capt. Bainbrige and his officers, who took every opportunity, before they were rigorously confined, to ascertain what were the facilities for an active enemy attempting such a task; and the commodore was notified, through Bainbridge, that the vessel was slowly fitting to cruise at sea.
We have all read of the gallant affair of the burning of the Philadelphia by Stephen Decatur in the ketch Intrepid; and as our history will deal as little as possible with matters in which Porter was not personally an actor, we must refer our readers to the chronicles of those times. The rage of the bashaw at the destruction of the Philadelphia was unbounded, and one effect was to increase very much the rigors of his prisoners’ confinement. The satisfaction of the latter, when they saw the flames which destroyed their old ship lighting up the harbor of Tripoli, was short duration. The sailors were put to work carrying stones on their heads and shoulders to repair the fortifications; and at this laborious employment they were kept from morning till night, exposed to burning sun, and supplied with very insufficient rations. Instead of beef, tough camel’s meat was served out to them, and the bread was a miserable article composed of beans instead of wheat.
The officers, although not compelled to labor, had their comforts much curtailed; and the provisions served out to them were of the poorest description. Thus, for upwards of nineteen months, were the unfortunate Americans subjected to a rigorous confinement; the United States government paying no heed to the exhorbitant demands of the bashaw, who required a ransom for his prisoners the sum of $160,000; for, by noticing favorably such a demand, they would have virtually abandoned the principle for which they had been contending. Thus our government was reduced to the painful alternative of leaving their citizens to remain in prison; but resolving to adopt the most energetic measures against their piratical enemies. Notwithstanding the uncomfortable predicament in which our officers and crew were situated, they never murmured at the determination of the government; but, on the contrary, were most anxious that no terms should be entered into for their relief, not strictly honorable to the United States. The officers, seeing that their confinement was likely to be a long one, endeavored to provide against that dullness which is the invariable accompaniment of captivity.
Consul Nissen continued his kind offices and supplied the captives with books; and Porter, whose spirits never flagged, and who never lost an opportunity of encouraging those around him, established a school of instruction for the younger officers, in which all joined. These exercises consumed a greater portion of the day; and evening was spent in such pastimes as could be invented or remembered from among those of their younger days. In this way time passed, if not joyously, at least not uselessly. Lieut. Porter instructed the midshipmen in fleet sailing seamanship, navigation, and gunnery, for which all expressed their indebtedness to him in after years. His own education had been very deficient, for his father could only send him to elementary schools; and he, therefore, took advantage of this opportunity to improve his own mind. He pursued the study of mathematics and the French language, read history carefully, devoted much attention to English grammar, became proficient in right-line drawing, and obtained a fair knowledge of the art of landscape drawing, all of which he considered necessary parts of an officer’s education. It can easily be imagined what a dreary time these captives would have had, shut up in prison for nearly two years, and without the opportunity of communicating with their friends, had there not been some leading spirit to animate them. Captain Bainbridge was allowed a room to himself, in consideration of his rank; his health was not good, and his spirits being greatly depressed in consequence of the loss of his ship, he passed many lonesome hours shut up in his apartment; thus the responsibility of keeping alive the spirits of the party devolved upon his first lieutenant.
The prisoners made many ineffectual attempts to escape, in which Porter always took a conspicuous part; but these attempts had no other result than to increase the severity of their imprisonment. One day they opened communication with the seamen, who on going to their daily work had to traverse a narrow passage past the quarters where the officers were confined. The seamen working on the walls had frequent opportunities of witnessing the operations of the American squadron, and of seeing the preparations of the Tripolitans. By some means a hole was cut through the wall between the officers’ room and the passage, and written communications handed through. This continued without discovery for a considerable time, until at length, grown bold by frequent success, an officer one day undertook to converse with the men going through the passage. The sound of the conversation was overheard by one of the officials appointed to urge the prisoners in their work, the plan was discovered and immediately reported to the Tripolitan officer on duty. The moment this man was informed of what had transpired he rushed into the captive officers’ quarters, his eyes glittering with rage, and demanded to know who had dared to open that hole in the wall; when Lieut. Porter, without a moment’s hesitation, stepped forward and took the blame upon himself. A guard was summoned and Mr. Porter was marched off to the bashaw; his companions, much alarmed at his prospective fate, anxiously waiting to hear what had befallen him. In a few hours Porter returned uninjured to his companions. He had frankly acknowledged his offense to the bashaw, at the same time taking the opportunity to tell Jusef Caramelli how harshly the prisoners were dealt with, protesting in the name of his government against such treatment. Strange to say, the despot, instead of displaying his usual rage, promised to give the matter his consideration, and restored the offender to his anxious friends. The hole was stopped by the bashaw’s order; but from that time their treatment was much improved.
It was a very disheartening thing for those officers to be cooped up when they knew their friends in the squadron were reaping such a harvest of fame, and from Lieut. Porter’s character we can imagine what a conspicuous part he would have taken in the different encounters which were continually taking place between the hostile parties, had he been at liberty to offer his services. They had all to remain quiet, much against their will, and their only consolation was the news of the glorious feats of their comrades outside, which was communicated by their friend Mr. Nissen. The prisoners were frequently in danger from the shot and shell of the United States squadron, which often struck their prison. Once a heavy shot passed through the castle walls into Captain Bainbridge’s room, knocking the stones and mortar on to the bed where the captain was laying and nearly burying him in the rubbish. Bainbridge was instantly pulled out of the debris by his officers, severely injured; and, notwithstanding the danger to which himself and companions were exposed by the bombardment, he wrote to Commodore Preble urging him to keep up the fire with the mortars, at every opportunity, as it demoralized the Tripolitans very much, and would do more than anything else to bring them to terms.
All things will have an end, and the Tripolitan war was no exception to the rule. The United States government at last discovered, that the economical system pursued towards the navy in the early part of Mr. Jefferson’s administration, was not the one to ensure success against a stubborn enemy; so after many earnest appeals from Commodore Preble, who was on his return to the United States in 1804-5, gave all the necessary information on which to base further arrangements for prosecuting the war, a squadron was ordered to be prepared for sea, which when completed, would increase the force before Tripoli to fourteen large vessels carrying 304 guns, ten gun boats carrying 17 guns and two bomb vessels. The Tripolitans, seeing that the United States was determined to prosecute the war until they were conquered, concluded at length to succumb, and on the third of June, 1805, the treaty of peace was signed.
It was agreed that the United States should never be required to pay tribute to Tripoli, but after exchanging prisoners man for man it was settled that $60,000 should be paid to Tripoli for the excess of prisoners in her possession. This later clause in the treaty sounds rather strangely after such loss of life and outlay of money in prosecuting the war; and no doubt, the United States could have made better terms by carrying on hostilities a little longer, but the sufferings of the prisoners in Tripolitan hands were exciting so much sympathy at home, and the expense of further warfare would have been so great that, perhaps, the course pursued may have been the wisest. It was a joyful day when all these poor fellows were released, and received the congratulations of their friends; but amid all their joy at being relieved from confinement, the prisoners could not but experience deep sorrow when they missed the many comrades who had fallen before the walls of Tripoli. A few years had made sad havoc among their friends, but such is ever the result of war.
In this conflict the American nation, which had been fighting for the rights of civilized nations, had won great renown through its navy, and the thanks of Christendom for setting an example that was soon followed by all Europe. When we look at these insignificant Barbary powers today we can hardly realize that we ever consented to pay tribute to them in the first place, and in the last act abandoned all the principles for which we had contended by paying that ransom of $60,000. With all this, however, the navy had nothing to do, and had the matter been left to them to decide, the barbarians would never have got anything, since they knew that they could conquer a peace. Throughout the trying ordeal they had to undergo, the honor of the navy remained untarnished; and painful as had been the imprisonment of the officers and crew of the Philadelphia, yet it produced good fruit, for without the loss of that vessel and its results, the government might have abandoned a contest which in the end put a stop to the enslaving of Christian people.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
America's Oldest POWMP case on record.
September 4, 1804 - September 19, 2008 -
It's Time To Repatriate the Men of the Intrepid.
2008 POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY AND POSTER:
This year's POW/MIA Recognition Day is scheduled for Sept. 19, the third Friday of the month. This is the traditional day of the month for that observance each year. CLICK HERE for more information about the event. Images of the poster commemorating this event may be downloaded from this web site for viewing or printing.
CLICK HERE to download the poster image. Due to the overwhelming positive response and demand for additional printed copies of the poster, the supply has now been exhausted and they are no longer available, however, the downloaded version may suffice for use on fliers, announcements and advertisements for community events.
The United States' War with Tripoli (1801-05) and the War on Terrorism (2001-)
By Michael J. Crawford , Head Early History Branch
Most of the analogies that I have seen drawn in the media between the Barbary Wars of 200 years ago and the current war on terrorism strike me as not valid.
Today's enemy uses random violence, and the fear of random violence, as means to protest against and influence American foreign policy. The world's nations, in general, condemn the terrorists' means as contrary to the rules of civilized behavior and outside the bounds of international law. Although the terrorists' goals are political-principally to remove U.S. influence from Moslem countries-they justify their extreme measures on religious grounds, a perversion of the Mohammedan jihad, the struggle to establish the rule of the Koran.
Two hundred years ago, the countries of the Barbary Coast, the northwest coast of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, demanded tribute from other nations in return for safe use of the sea by their ships. The Barbary Powers, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, declared war on nations that refused to sign treaties meeting their tribute demands. The Barbary Powers sent out ships to capture the seagoing commerce of their enemies and held their crews for ransom or enslaved them. The Barbary corsairs, the sailors that the Barbary Powers dispatched to prey on enemy commerce, were neither terrorists nor pirates. They were commissioned privateers. Even the United States Constitution recognizes the legitimate use of privateering in warfare, providing Congress the authority to issue letters of marque and reprisal.
The goals of the Barbary Powers were solely mercenary. They sought to extort tribute, not to influence foreign policy. When Tripoli declared war on the United States in 1801 it was because the United States refused to pay the bashaw tribute, as they had been paying Tunis and Algiers. The Tripolitan War was not a Moslem holy war.
Legitimate analogies can be drawn between the war with Tripoli of 1801 to 1805 and the war on terrorism. These relate not to the causes of the wars, but to the logistical and diplomatic requirements for fighting them.
Today, the United States needs the cooperation of foreign countries and allies in order to have bases outside Afghanistan from which to launch attacks, and to which to return afterwards, as well as for supply depots. Two hundred years ago, the United States needed logistical bases so that their armed forces could operate in the Mediterranean, thousands of miles from home. Use of British-held Gibraltar as a logistical base was essential to U.S. operations during the Barbary Wars. The loan of shallow-draft vessels from the Kingdom of Sicily enabled the U.S. Navy to operate in shallow waters to enforce a blockade of Tripolitan ports.
In Afghanistan, the United States tried to influence the ruling Taliban to accede to political demands by supporting rival political movements that want to overthrow the Taliban. During the Tripolitan War, American leaders supported the ruling Bashaw's brother, a rival for the throne, in an attempt to persuade the Bashaw to negotiate.
During the War with Tripoli, the United States used the show of force and diplomacy to dissuade the other Barbary Powers from also declaring war against the United States. Today, the United States works to dissuade other Moslem countries from coming to the support of the Taliban regime.
In short, the similarities between the Tripolitan War and the war on terrorism have little to do with the religion of the enemy, and everything to do with the problems of waging a campaign in a forbidding environment far from the United States' own borders.
OF THE FRIGATE PHILADELPHIA,
To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:
The people of this country are justly proud of the achievements of their army and their navy. Those achievements are not alone gratifying to their pride, but are regarded as adding strength to their national institutions. Every inducement to high and noble daring is held out to the chivalry of the country, and honors mingled with emoluments form the catalogue of rewards.
From the commencement of our present national government, systematic efforts were made to give consistency and shape to these bounties. In 1799, but especially on the 23d April, 1800, provisions were made in a definite form concerning captures by our national vessels. In the latter act, “for the better government of the navy,” Congress combined into one the previous provisions, and made them the expression of the national policy concerning that branch of the public service. One remarkable provision is contained in the 5th section, wherein it is provided "that the proceeds of all ships and vessels, and the goods taken on board of them, which shall be adjudged good prize, shall, when of equal or superior force to the vessel or vessels making the capture, be the sole property of the captors; and when of inferior force, shall be divided equally between the United States and the officers and men making the capture."
This law is still in force, and was so during the war with Tripoli. During its continuance two vessels were captured from the Emperor of Morocco, which, although afterwards restored to him, were by act of Congress, approved the 19th March, 1804, paid for to the captors.
Under its influence all of the vessels captured from the British navy during the war of 1812, both on the ocean and on the lakes, whether brought into port, destroyed, or recaptured, were paid for. On the lakes, as Perry and McDonough captured superior fleets, those fleets became the sole property of the captors, and were therefore purchased of them. The Frolic, although immediately recaptured, was paid for. Even the Hermes frigate, which formed part of the attacking force at Fort Bowyer, and was destroyed by the guns of the fort, was paid for, and the garrison shared the prize money. All the enemy's vessels which were so injured in combat as to render their destruction necessary, formed no exception.
There is one exception. It is that which forms one of the brightest ornaments of our naval escutcheon- the capture and destruction of the frigate Philadelphia, in the harbor of Tripoli!
It is regarded by some at the present day as a stale claim. No one will so consider it who knows the facts. By the letter of the Hon. Mr. Tazewell it appears that Com. Decatur was urging it as early as 1806, and that he was his counsel in the case. It was presented to Congress as far back as 1824, and has been pressed ever since. One committee after another have sifted its merits, and reported in its favor; while other claims, similar in every respect, have been time after time cheerfully paid, this has failed, until the gallant Decatur, and nearly all his brave associates in that capture, are no more.
But it is said not to have been a capture, but simply a destruction of an enemy’s vessel. The orders of Com. Preble show why it was destroyed. It was because he ordered it, peremptorily. The statement of the pilot Catalano shows the frigate might have been taken out safely from the harbor of Tripoli. It was then “captured,” and by superior orders destroyed.
But does not the rule apply in this case which governed in the captures on the lakes, viz: a superior captured by an inferior? It surely does. There was no comparison between the two vessels or their crews. Instead, therefore, of giving a fixed sum as a bounty, should not Congress feel itself bound to estimate the value of the frigate and its armament when captured, and appropriate the full amount to the captors and their heirs, as a debt due them under an existing law?
For the purpose of bringing this long delayed claim as fairly as possible before Congress, a compilation of a part of the evidence in the case, with the professional opinions of legal gentlemen, and reports of committees of high standing in the halls of Congress, is now submitted to them; and the prayer is respectfully renewed, that justice be extended in this case by the same noble impulses which have so often, in similar instances, guided Congressional action.
On behalf of the captors and their legal representatives.
CHARLES DE SELDING. Washington, April, 1850.
Statement of the circumstances attending the destruction of the frigate Philadelphia, with the names of the officers and the number of men employed on the occasion, as laid before the President by the Secretary of the Navy, November 13, 1804.
On the 31st January, 1804, Commodore Preble, lying with his squadron in the harbor of Syracuse, gave orders to Lieutenant Charles Stewart, commanding the brig Syren, of 16 guns, and to Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, jr., commanding the ketch Intrepid, of 4 guns and 75 men, to proceed to Tripoli, and to destroy the frigate Philadelphia of 44 guns, then lying in the harbor of Tripoli. Lieutenant Decatur had orders to enter the harbor in the night, board and set fire to the Philadelphia; and Lieut. Stewart was ordered to take the best possible position, without the harbor, to cover the retreat.
Under these orders, they proceeded immediately to the coast of Tripoli; but, owing to the very heavy gales of wind that usually prevail there in the winter season, the enterprise could not be undertaken until the 16th of February, when Lieutenant Stewart, having taken the best possible position to effect the object of his instructions, Lieutenant Decatur, at seven o’clock in the night, entered the harbor of Tripoli, boarded, and took possession of the Philadelphia.
This frigate, at the time she was boarded, had all her guns mounted and charged, and was lying within half gun shot of the Bashaw’s castle, and of his principal battery. Two Tripolitan cruisers were lying within two cables length on the starboard quarter, and several gun boats within half gun-shot on the starboard bow, and all the batteries on shore were opened upon the assailants. About twenty men in the Philadelphia were killed, a large boat full got off, and one man was made prisoner.
After having gained possession of the frigate, Lieut. Decatur set fire to her store rooms, gun room, cock pit, and birth deck; and with a firmness highly honorable to him, his officers and men, they remained on board until the flames had issued from the ports of the gun deck and the hatchways of the spar deck, and they continued in the ketch, along side the frigate, until the fire had communicated to her rigging and tops.
Lieutenant Decatur did not lose a man, and had but one slightly wounded.
The following is a list of the officers, and the number of men employed in the destruction of the Philadelphia:
Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, jr. James Lawrence,
Lieutenants. Jonathan Thorn, Lewis Heermann, Surgeon.
Ralph Izard, John Rowe, Charles Morris, Alexander Laws, Midshipman. John Davis, Thomas McDonough, Thomas Oakley Anderson, Mr. ________ Salvadore, Pilot and sixty-two men.
Lieut. Decatur has stated that all his officers and men behaved with the greatest coolness and intrepidity; and Commodore Preble has informed me that Lieutenant Stewart’s conduct was judicious and meritorious.
Clerk’s Office, House of Rep. United States, March 11th, 1828.
I certify that the above is correctly copied from the original, now on file in this office, which was communicated to the House of Representatives by the President of the United States, on the 15th November, 1804.
M. ST. CLAIR CLARKE, Clerk of the House of Representatives.
The Committee of Naval Affairs, to whom was referred the memorial of Susan Decatur, praying for compensation to the officers and crew of the United States ketch, Intrepid, for the capture of the frigate Philadelphia, Report:
That the claim is founded on the re-capture of the Philadelphia frigate in the harbor of Tripoli, on the night of the 16th of February, 1804. The circumstances attending that gallant achievement, are so well known, that the committee will content themselves with a very brief recapitulation of them. Soon after the war with Tripoli had commenced, a small squadron under Commodore Preble was despatched to the Mediterranean, for the purpose of carrying on hostilities. The United States’ frigate Philadelphia, of forty-four guns, commanded by Commodore Bainbridge, not long after the arrival of the squadron on the Barbary coast, was unfortunately stranded on rocks, and in that situation, resistance being impossible, she was captured by the enemy, and the whole of the officers and crew were made prisoners and thrown into a dungeon. The frigate was got off, without material damage, and immediately taken into the Tripolitan service, and being speedily manned and ready for sea, was moored in the harbor of Tripoli, “within pistol shot of the whole of the Tri-
politan marine, mounting altogether upwards of one hundred pieces of heavy cannon, and within the immediate protection of formidable land batteries, consisting of one hundred and fifteen pieces of heavy artillery.” It is stated, that besides this force there were encamped at the time, “in the city and its vicinity, twenty thousand troops,” and that “upwards of one thousand seamen were attached to the fleet in the harbor.” At this period the force under Commodore Preble was, by the loss of the Philadelphia, so much reduced as to deprive him of the means of prosecuting hostilities on a scale at all commensurate with the magnitude of the service to be performed - the release of the American captives, and the restoration of an honorable peace. In this state of affairs, Stephen Decatur, then a Lieutenant commanding the United States’ schooner Enterprise of fourteen guns and seventy men, conceived the idea of entering the harbor of Tripoli in the night, and of boarding and re-capturing the Philadelphia.
He immediately communicated the daring scheme to his commander, and volunteered his services to execute it. After due deliberation on the proposal, Commodore Preble approved of the plan, and accepted the offer of Decatur’s services. Fully aware, however, of the extreme hazard of such an undertaking, and that its success would entirely depend on the secrecy, celerity, and gallantry of its execution; and conceiving that any attempt to bring out the frigate, if captured, must be attended with extraordinary danger to the captors and expose the vessel to the risk of being retaken; and believing, moreover, that the destruction of the Philadelphia would sufficiently restore the superiority of his own fleet, Commodore Preble gave peremptory orders to Lieutenant Decatur not to attempt to bring the frigate out of the harbor, but, “in case of success, to be sure to set fire to the gun-room, births, cock-pit, store rooms forward, births on the birth-deck,” and then, after “blowing out her bottom,” to abandon her. In the execution of these orders, Lieutenant Decatur manned a small ketch of about sixty tons, (which he had just before taken from the Turks,) with seventy officers and men, all volunteers, and sailed from Syracuse, where the American squadron then lay, on the 3rd of February, 1804. After several days of very tempestuous weather, he arrived off Tripoli, on the 16th of the same month, and immediately proceeding into the harbor, ran up alongside of the Philadelphia, about ten o’clock at night, boarded, and carried her in the most gallant style, after a short, but severe conflict on the decks of the frigate, in which upwards of twenty Turks were killed on the spot, and the rest driven below, or overboard. At this period, and while everything around was involved in darkness, Lieutenant Decatur found himself in quiet possession of his prize; and it is the opinion of the pilot who conducted the ketch into the harbor, as well as of several naval officers who were acquainted with all the circumstances, and the committee are assured, it was the decided opinion of Decatur himself, that
he could have brought the Philadelphia out of the harbor in safety. The peremptory orders, however, under which he was acting, precluded the attempt, and having deliberately set fire to the vessel, in the manner prescribed by his commander, and having remained on board “until the fire had communicated to the rigging and the tops,” he finally abandoned her; bringing off the whole of his crew, under a heavy fire from the batteries and the shipping, without the loss of a single man. It is the belief of the committee, that the gallantry of this achievement has very seldom been equalled, and never surpassed in the naval history of the world. In the language of Commodore Preble, “its merit can hardly be sufficiently estimated; it is above all praise.”
Without dwelling on the circumstances which, in their estimation, distinguish this achievement from almost all others, the committee would remark, that when considered in its effects, in inspiring the Turk with a dread of American enterprise and valor, (which neither time nor space have been able to remove,) in elevating the American naval character in the estimation of foreign nations, and in inspiring that confidence in ourselves so essential to success; and which, perhaps, has contributed as much as any other cause to our victories on the ocean and the lakes; the destruction of the Philadelphia cannot fail to be regarded as an event of the highest importance to the government and people of the United States. It was so considered when it occurred, and has never ceased to be so regarded by our naval officers, by the government, and by the country at large; and, perhaps, it is not going too far to assert, that it is to the profound impression produced by that and other exploits, during the Tripolitan war, that this nation is indebted for a greater exemption from depredations, on the part of Turkish cruisers, than has been experienced by any other; and that, when difficulties have occurred, they have been adjusted with unexampled celerity, and at an expense of blood and treasure altogether insignificant, when compared with that to which the greatest maritime powers of Europe have been subjected, under similar circumstances. Without dwelling longer on the merit of the exploit, the committee will come directly to the inquiry whether any and what pecuniary reward ought to be bestowed on the captors of the Philadelphia, according to the practice of our own government, in similar cases? At the time of the capture of the Philadelphia the navy was young, and it was the opinion of many, even of our wisest statesmen, that it was not the true policy of the United States to strengthen this arm of the national defence. The system which has since been introduced, and which seems now to unite all suffrages in its favor, had not yet been established, and appropriate rewards for distinguished services had not been provided. Congress, therefore, though appreciating very highly the valor and good conduct of Decatur and his gallant associates, contented themselves with bestowing mere honorary rewards, unless it can be considered as an excep-
tion to the remark, that they voted two months’ pay to the officers and men; which, it is understood, the former unanimously declined to receive. When, at a later period, however, the people of the United States came to feel and acknowledge the importance of a navy to the national defence - when our officers and men were every day covering themselves and their country with glory, a better and more liberal spirit sprung up, and was cherished, towards this long neglected department of the public service. Prior to the capture of the Guerriere by the Constitution, we believe, no case had occurred in which pecuniary reward, for a naval victory, had been paid out of the public treasury. A share in the thing captured was all that the laws or usages of the country allowed; and, if that perished in the conflict, the victors went without their reward. When, however, the navy had fought itself into favor, and our naval heroes came to be regarded with the gratitude and affection which could no longer be withheld, the rule was adopted of paying, out of the public purse, for the vessels destroyed in battle; and the principle is now settled, from the uniform practice of the government, for fourteen years, that a reasonable compensation is to be allowed for vessels sunk in battle, or necessarily destroyed in consequence of injuries received in the conflict. The committee beg leave to annex to this report a list of the vessels so destroyed, with the compensation allowed for each. Conceiving, therefore, that it is the established policy and settled practice of the government, to allow compensation in all such cases, (although they do not come within the provisions of the prize acts,) the question now presents itself, whether the same liberal principle ought not to be extended to the case of the Philadelphia, and whether compensation is not as justly due to the captors of that vessel as to the captors of the Guerriere and the Java, or of the gun-boat destroyed on Lake Ontario? On this point your committee are clearly and unanimously of opinion, that both justice and policy concur in support of the claim. Where all the facts are notorious, and the merit of the claimants is confessedly of the highest order, the government ought not to avail itself of the mere lapse of time, nor can the committee conceive any sound reason why a rule, founded on justice and enlarged principles of public policy, should not be extended to those who have achieved signal victories, before as well as after its adoption. They have, therefore, no hesitation in recommending that reasonable compensation be now granted to the captors of the Philadelphia.
Two other questions still remain to be considered. The first relates to the amount which ought to be allowed, and the second to the proper distribution of that amount. On the first point, the precedents have varied from the grant of the full value of the vessel captured and destroyed, down to a half, and even a fourth part of such value. An examination of the annexed list will afford full information on this point.
The petitioner in this case, strongly relies on the ground, that as the vessel could have been brought out of the harbor of Tripoli, and was destroyed only in obedience to the orders of Commodore Preble, the captors ought to be remunerated for their loss. And further, that the great disparity of force, making this a case of even higher merit than that of any other frigate ever captured by the American Navy, strengthens the claim to a liberal allowance. Viewing the subject in all its bearings, the committee have come to the conclusion to recommend the grant of one hundred thousand dollars, as a reasonable sum to be now paid to the captors of the Philadelphia, being, at the lowest estimate, about one half of the value of the frigate at the time of her capture.
David Porter (naval officer)
Born at Boston, Massachusetts, Porter served in the Quasi-War with France first as midshipman on board USS Constellation, participating in the capture of L’Insurgente 9 February 1799; secondly, as 1st lieutenant of Experiment and later in command of USS Amphitheatre. During the Barbary Wars (1801–07) Porter was 1st lieutenant of Enterprise, New York and Philadelphia and was taken prisoner when Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor 31 October 1803. After his release 3 June 1805 he remained in the Mediterranean as acting captain of Constitution and later captain of Enterprise.
He was in charge of the naval forces at New Orleans 1808–10. As commander of Essex in the War of 1812, Captain Porter achieved fame by capturing the first British warship of the conflict, Alert, 13 August 1812 as well as several merchantmen. In 1813 he sailed Essex around Cape Horn and cruised in the Pacific warring on British whalers. On 28 March 1814 Porter was forced to surrender off Valparaiso after an engagement with the frigate HMS Phoebe and the Sloop Cherub, when his ship became too disabled to offer any resistance.
From 1815 to 1822 he was a member of the Board of Navy Commissioners but gave up this post to command the expedition for suppressing piracy in the West Indies 1823–25. While in the West Indies suppressing piracy, Porter invaded the town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico (a Spanish colony) to avenge the jailing of an officer from his fleet. The U.S. government did not sanction Porter's act, and he was court-martialed upon his return to the U.S. Porter resigned and in 1826 entered the Mexican navy as its commander-in-chief 1826–29. He died on 3 March 1843 while U.S. Minister to Turkey. He was buried in the cemetery of the Philadelphia Naval Asylum, and then in 1845 reburied in The Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He was the father of Admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891) and the adopted father of Admiral David Farragut (1801-1870), two of the leading naval officers of the American Civil War, and father of William D. Porter.
See USS Porter for ships named in their honor.