Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old Protestant Cemetery Tripoli

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American Legion Magazine Report May 1977

American Legion Magazine - May 1977 (Vol. 102, #4)

By Melba Edmunds:

....From the modern asphalt highway, weathered stone steps made their way towards the sea. On one side was the whitewashed wall of the British Rod and Gun Club; on the other side was a well-repaired stone wall. The steps turned abruptly and clung to the cliff. The rocks below were green from the dampness of the Mediterranean.

The stone steps stopped at a small opening in the wall. Inside, the vaulted doorway framed a picturesque seascape. A tanker rode on the blue-purple sea. White birds floated in and out of view....

....The walls enclosed an area not larger than half a city lot. On top of the stone floor were positioned stone burial crypts about the size of a coffin. Markers noted the deceased. Most were members of the embassy families who had served in Tripoli during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Babies, children, and young mothers seemed to dominate the tiny Christian cemetery. One marker mourned a young man who had lived without enemies, but had been killed by assassins.

In the northeast corner of the room-like cemetery, a gnarled olve tree spread its limbs over five stone coffins. On each crypt a bronze marker has been placed:

"Here lies an American sailor who gave his life in the explosion of the U.S. ship Intrepid in Tripoli harbor Sept. 4, 1804."

A plaque on the wall reads:

"Here lie five sailors of the American ship Intrepid, who lost their lives in the battle against the Barbary Coast Pirates Sept. 4, 1804. The honor we accord them for their heroism is no less because their names are unknown. - erected by The Wheelus Air Force Wives Club."

The waves could be heard splashing gently against the rocks below. Americans have left Wheelus Air Force Base....The sun shortened the shadows and increased the heat. But the five young American sailors continued their long sleep under the ancient olive tree.....

[Bill Kelly notes: This article sparked a concerted effort to repatriate the remains of the Intrepid Crew in the early 1980s, which led to Congressman William Hughes (D. 2nd. N.J.) to sponsor a congressional resolution that ensures their will be a resting place for the men of the Intrepid at Arlington National Cemetery.]

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