Letter from the Chief - Admiral Gary Roughead - CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS
March 11, 2010
Dear Mr. Kelly:
Thank you for your letter regarding the Sailors killed in the explosion of the first USS INTREPID. I personally reviewed historical records regarding the INTREPID, the associated grave sites in Tripoli’s Protestant Cemetery, information gathered during a 2004 site-visit by the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, and current Navy policy regarding repatriation of Navy service members remains. It has also been my honor to visit the graves when I lived in Libya as a young man.
Honoring the final resting place of Sailors and Marines is a long standing naval tradition. Early in our Navy’s history, the remains of Sailors who passed away at-sea were either buried at sea or held for burial on the nearest island, coastline, or friendly port; with the location properly marked and recorded in their ship’s log. Unfortunately, there is no documentation regarding the remains recovered after the INTREPID exploded. We do know these remains were buried by crewmembers of the USS PHILADELPHIA; and the remains recovered during the 1930 road construction in the vicinity of the original burial were reburied at Tripoli’s Protestant Cemetery in four or five grave sites. No information on the guantity, condition, or identity of the remains was recorded during the reburial of these remains. Headstones erected over the grave sites however contain inscriptions refereeing to “American Sailor Intrepid.” The fifth headstone was damaged and cannot be made out clearly but is believed to be part of the 1930 remains reburial.
In honor of Commander Richard Somers, and his crew who volunteered to accompany him on the fatal mission of the INTREPID, officials of the United States Navy, State Department, and Libyan government held formal memorial ceremonies on April 2, 1949 at Tripoli’s Protestant Cemetery. Since these remains are associated with the loss of the INTREPID, Tripoli’s Protestant Cemetery has been officially recognized by the Department of the Navy as the final resting place for her crew. My staff is working with the Department of State and the American Embassy in Libya to ascertain the condition of the graves and what actions can be taken towards their long term care.
Again, thank you for your letter and continued interest in our Navy and Nation.
Admiral, U.S. Navy
Mr. William Kelly
20 Columbine Ave.
Browns Mills, NJ 08015