American Archeological Sites at Tripoli, Libya
`1) The original gravesite of 13 Navy sailors who died in the explosion of the USS Intrepid at Tripoli Harbor, September 4, 1804, including Lt. Richard Somers, Lt. Henry Wadsworth, Lt. Israel, and ten seamen. The remains of five of these men were excavated by Italian soldiers in the 1930s and reburied at Old Protestant Cemetery, about a mile east on the old coast road. So there should be the remains of eight men at the original grave site, which was reportedly excavated by the Libyans in 2005 when “bones and buttons” were found.
2) Old Protestant Cemetery, which includes the remains of the five men of the USS Intrepid and less than a hundred graves of European Christian diplomats and their families who died in Tripoli in the 17th, 18th and 19th century.
3) The wreckage of the USS Intrepid, on the east shores of Tripoli harbor.
4) The wreckage of the USS Philadelphia, on east shores of Tripoli harbor.
5) The small brick fort at the entrance to the harbor, which is on most maps of the era and is near where the Intrepid, the Philadelphia and the men of the Intrepid washed ashore.
6) The grave of Capt. Laurence, USN, whose F-111 crashed during Operation El Dorado Canyon, and his remains never recovered.
7) The former Wheeler Air Force Base, occupied by the United States Air Force, where there are reports of a US military cemetery, some of the remains of which may have been repatriated by the Libyans at some point, but the record is unclear.
There are dozens of major archeological sites in Libya, Roman and pre-Greek cities, pre-historic rock paintings and older sites that have been preserved by the area’s natural dry environment and sand.
While many of these sites are thousands of years old, and the American sites are only two hundred years old, the significance of the American archeological sites is directly relevant to the political, economic and historic situation today. A study of these sites gives quick and relevant insight into not only what is happening in Libya today, but in the historic dynamics of the international relations between the US and Libya, then and now.
In 1949, the last time there was an official US Navy ceremony at the cemetery site, when the American flag was raised and a plaque was placed there, the leader of Libya was named Karamanli, the same name and family dynasty we were fighting in 1804 and who signed the treaty of 1805 in the Captain’s quarters of the USS Constitution.
This treaty freed the American prisoners from the Philadelphia and set the tone for not only US – Libyan relations, but set the policy and style of how the United States Navy would conduct itself when dealing with the enemy.
Among the provisions of the …. Articles in the treaty, besides freeing the prisoners of the Philadelphia, was establishing the responsibility for the return of the remains of those Americans who died in Tripoli with the US Ambassador.
As a professor of History at West Point has noted, the resolution of differences and the restoration of official US relations between the US and Libya is just now ending hostilities that began over two hundred years ago, and an understanding of those issues are essential to understanding the situation today.
Just as the repatriation of the American prisoners from the USS Philadelphia was an essential element of the treaty of 1805, the repatriation of the men of the USS Intrepid should be an essential element in the restoration of US – Libyan relations today.
There is a strong potential for agreement on the security and care of American graves and archeological sites in Tripoli and the repatriation of the remains of the Americans, totally unlike the other volatile issues between the United States and Libya today, such as Lockerbie, the bombing of the German disco, the killing of the British policeman outside the Libyan embassy in London, the trial of the Belgian nurses and Palestine doctor, the release of al Megragi to a hero’s welcome and Ghadaffi’s visit to New York and the UN, all of which rub Americans the wrong way.
In response to the negative issues, US Congressman are trying to withhold the $2.5 million in foreign aid and grants that were going to be given to Libya, mainly through the Ghadaffi Charities and Development Foundation, a non-profit organization that is run by Col. Ghadaffi’s son Saif.
Rather than renigging on previous agreements between the US and Libyan governments, and the promise of the financial aid, these funds could be restricted for use in the security of the American graves and archeological sites in Libya, locating the remains of Capt. Laurence, and the development of strong US-Libyan relations in the non-profit, educational, archeological, linguistic, historical and diplomatic fields.