Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OpEd - The Current - September 9, 2009

From: The Current of Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
On line at Shore News Today
Page 17

When will Intrepid heroes come home?

Also see Seth Grossman's column, Page 16
Why Richard Somers is still a hero,
205 years later By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist. Liberty and


Libyans Dancing on the Graves of American Heroes

When will Intrepid heroes come home?

By William Kelly []

If you were upset when a Scottish judge released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset ali al Megrahi, and like President Obama, thought the hero's welcome he received in Tripoli was "highly objectionable, outrageous and disgusting," then you also agreed with Governor Corzine and other politicians who objected to Col. Moammar Gaddafi setting up his tent in New Jersey.

Then how do you feel about the Libyans dancing on the graves of American heroes, as they do at Green Square in celebration of the anniversary of the Gaddafi revolution?

This year’s September 1 celebration was special because it was the 40th anniversary of the Gaddafi coup and al Megrahi was honored when Gaddafi gives his speech to the people assembled at Green Square.

Green Square is just outside the walls of the Red Castle, where the bodies of the men of the USS Intrepid were buried when they washed ashore on September 5, 1804, two hundred and four years to the day that Condi Rice visited Tripoli last year.

Their unmarked graves are seven hundred and twenty feet south, southeast of the castle walls, a few feet below the Green Square, where the celebrations are held.

The original grave site contains the remains of eight of the men of the Intrepid. Five others were removed when the Italian army built a road in the 1930s, and reburied at the old walled cemetery about a mile away. Both of these sites can be clearly seen on any satellite view of Tripoli harbor.

While the five graves in the cemetery have been secured by US embassy personnel, the eight graves of the Intrepid officers and men has reportedly been excavated by the Libyans, who found "bones and buttons." These relics have either been reburied or are being kept in the Jamahiriya museum in the Red Castle where many ancient Greek and Roman artifacts are kept, along with the Volkswagon Beetle Colonel Moammar Gaddafi rode into Tripoli during the coup, cannon from the USS Philadelphia and some say, a mast from the wreck of the Intrepid.

Originally a pirate ship captured by the Americans, the USS Intrepid was used by Stephen Decatur to sink the captured Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, and then by Lt. Richard Somers and his men who sailed the Intrepid back into the harbor at night on September 4, 1804, with the intention of destroying the anchored pirate fleet. Instead, the Intrepid exploded, and the bodies of the men washed ashore the next day.

The remains of all thirteen men were recovered, and the officers were identified by Dr. Jonathen Cowdery, the ship’s surgeon from the Philadelphia, whose Captain Bainbridge and his 300 man crew were being held in the castle dungeon. Cowdery and a party of prisoners from the Philadelphia buried them together, marking the graves one cable’s length south from the castle walls.

According to sailing manuals of the day, one cable length is listed as 720 feet, or a little more than two football fields, which if extended from the castle walls, is right at Green Square.

The Men of the USS Intrepid, who died on September 4, 1804, and are buried at Tripoli Harbor, are Master Commandant Richard Somers, of Somers Point, N.J., Lt. Henry Wadsworth, uncle of Longfellow, Midshipman Joseph Israel (14 years old) and ten volunteer seamen. From the USS Nautilus - “Bos’n” James Simms, Thomas Tompline, James Harris and William Keith. From the USS Constitution - William Harrison, Robert Clark, Hugh McCormick, Peter Penner, Issac Downes and Jacob Williams.

These men enlisted in the US Navy and fought the Barbary pirates for the same reasons we fight pirates and terrorist today. In fact, they established the spirit, principles and Navy traditions that are continued today, and we honor them by naming modern Navy warships Somers, Decatur, Bainbridge, Nautilus, Enterprise and Intrepid after them and their ships.

And one of those traditions is that no one is left behind. As Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations recently said, after the return of the remains of a Navy airman shot down during the first Gulf War 18 years ago, "Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be."

For anyone really interested, the search for the men of the USS Intrepid leads to Green Square, Tripoli, where they are buried in the little park outside of the Red Castle.

When al Megrahi was released, Gadaffi’s son said that every time the Libyans engaged in talks over oil or trade with England, al Megrahi’s name came up in the negotiations. But now, after 205 years and dozens of US politicians having recently visited Libya, they’ve made deals for oil, trade and military equipment, but no one has yet publicly mentioned the names of the men of the USS Intrepid, or has requested their repatriation.

Who will be the first to bring up the names of the men of the Intrepid? Who will take the first step in bringing them home, so they can have an American hero’s homecoming, and be buried with full military honors rather than lay in an unmarked grave in the pirate’s lair?

When you see tapes of Gadaffi gave his speech at Green Square, remember the men of the Intrepid are buried there. And Remember the men of the Intrepid on September 11th, Patriot's Day, and September 13 - Richard Somers/John Barry Day, when we are supposed to remember those heroes but seldom do. And remember the men of the Intrepid on September 24 when Col. Gaddafi addresses the United Nations.

Sign Petition:

Remember the Intrepid blog Update:

No comments: