Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mayor Jack Glasser and American Legion Story

Greg Sykora (left) and Somers Point, NJ Mayor Jack Glasser stand by a portrait of Master Commandant Richard Somers in Somers Point City Hall.

From the THE AMERICAN LEGION web site:


Bring home the “Intrepid” Crew

Jack Glasser, mayor of Somers Point, NJ , asks why the remains of U.S. Navy heroes are still buried in Libya.

Jack Glasser:

Being the mayor of this town I’ve got a passion for this. As a veteran I can’t understand why they are still there in Libya. For the life of me I cannot understand why we’ve left them there for two hundred and six years in Libya. We had the country at one time, why didn’t we bring them back?

But in this town, not only I, but there are so many people in this town and the Somers family that have the passion to bring the crew of the Intrepid home.

It’s time to bring them home, that’s my saying. It’s time to bring them home.

We have congressman Mike Rogers from the great state of Michigan and our own congressman Frank LoBiondo, who has championing this cause in Congress for many years, introducing bill 1497 in Congress to bring the crew of the Intrepid home.

It’s time for our government get on board with this, to use a Navy saying, to get on board with this and stand behind us and bring them home.

I understand that there are Americans lying in foreign soil in France and Germany and other places, but those countries have always been our allies.

Richard Somers and his crew of the Intrepid are lying in a hostile country, hostile towards us for many years - bring them home to the United States. It’s the right thing to do.

If I seem compassionate, I’m not, I just feel really deep down, that it’s not right for them to stay there. We need to have our heroes, and again, I firmly believe would be a Medal of Honor winner, we need to have them brough them home to the United States.

We are lucky there are other people – Sally Hastings, Walt Gregory, Greg Sykora, all these people in Somers Point are like minded, like me - Bill Kelly, Mike Caputo, Chip Reid and especially the family - Dean Somers, Andrea, who works here, a relative, all these people feel the same as I do – we need to bring them home.

As far back as 1850 when James Finemore Cooper wrote in his book that the Somers family members wished to have Richard Somers and the crew brought home. We’ve been at it for so long, and I just can’t understand why.

With so much going on there, once the political situation stabilizes, I would hope that our government firmly stands behind this initiative, and puts everything into place.

And we have the resources because we have done it in other countries – from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

We have the resources to do this, let’s put those resources to work and bring them home.

“Here, then, lie the remains of Somers, and his two gallant friends; and it might be well to instruct the commander of some national cruiser to search for their bones, that they might be finally incorporated with the dust of their native land...and the friends of the deceased might find a melancholy consolation in being permitted to drop a tear over the spot in which they would be finally entombed.” - James F. Cooper (1850)


A House of Representatives amendment that supports bringing home the remains of U.S. Navy heroes from Libya has no counterpart in the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2012.

While the Senate Armed Services Committee chose not to address the issue, the House passed an amendment (H.R. 1497) on May 26, directing the Secretary of Defense to take whatever steps necessary to "exhume and transfer the remains of certain deceased members of the Armed Forces buried in Tripoli, Libya...."

Those "deceased members" died on Sept. 4, 1804, in the harbor of Tripoli when an explosive-packed ship they crewed, the Intrepid, blew up prematurely and killed all 13 men on board, led by Master Commandant Richard Somers and his second-in-command, Lt. Henry Wadsworth (uncle of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).

The sailors' remains were discovered onshore the next day, abused by the enemy and partially devoured by a pack of stray dogs before Capt. William Bainbridge and other Navy prisoners in Tripoli were allowed to bury Somers and his men.

More than two centuries later, those American heroes lie buried in a hostile land.

The American Legion's National Executive Committee passed a resolution in May that urges "the President and the Congress to support legislation and policies that will use all reasonable resources to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all missing American servicemembers, regardless of location or era of loss."

Tim Tetz, the Legion's Legislative director, wrote a May 24 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, asking for his support of H.R. 1497, authored by Reps. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey.

"There, within a forgotten cemetery, lie the remains of an American naval hero, Master Commandant Richard Somers, whose legacy inspires those still serving in the Navy," Tetz wrote. "There lie remains that family members have pled to have returned to the United States.

"It is therefore the opportunity and - more importantly - duty of Congress to direct that we recover the remains of those Americans within Tripoli.... The time has come to bring our heroes home."

Michael Caputo has been lobbying on behalf of the Somers Point community to get the Intrepid crew's remains back to America. "They aren't lying in a Normandy-style hallowed ground. Some are in a ratty, unkempt cemetery and others lie jumbled together underneath Green Square," where Col. Muammar Qaddafi and his government hold public rallies.

"These men didn't get an honorable burial; they were dragged through the streets, fed to wild dogs and dumped in mass graves," Caputo said. "But the most important reason to bring them back is because their families have wanted them home for more than 200 years." Caputo is a member of American Legion Post 362 in East Aurora, N.Y.

Jack Glasser, mayor of Somers Point, N.J. (founded by the naval hero's ancestors) is part of an ongoing local effort to retrieve the remains of the Intrepid crew.

"As a veteran, I can't understand why they're still there," Glasser said. "For the life of me, I cannot understand why we've left them there for 206 years in Libya. It's time to bring them home." Glasser retired from the New Jersey Air National Guard with 20 years of service.

Although Somers has had six U.S. Navy ships named after him, and a monument honoring him and his crew stands at the U.S. Naval Academy, the United States has never reclaimed the Intrepid crew's remains from Libya.

Sally Hastings, president of the Somers Point Historical Society and Museum, said historical documents indicate family members tried to get Somers' remains back to America in the early 1800s.

"Two centuries later, the story of Richard Somers and the crew of the Intrepid is not complete," Hasting said. "There is more to come. Ultimately, the Somers Point Historical Society will be the organization that plans any local burial of Richard Somers, with the assistance of the city and - I would hope - veterans groups."

Hastings and her organization have taken a leading role in building support for their cause, raising funds for a monument to Somers, and planning the ceremony for its eventual dedication at Somers Point.

"Any servicemember killed in the line of duty deserves to come home," said Barry Searle, director of the Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division. "First, it is important for family members to have their loved ones properly buried in an environment that isn't hostile.

"But bringing Somers and his men back home is also a matter of national honor and trust. By making this effort, we are telling future generations that the United States stands by its commitment to those who serve in uniform."

As for an amendment of support being excluded from the Senate's version of the NDAA, Tetz said The American Legion will still have the opportunity to press for its inclusion on the Senate floor. "And we fully intend to do that if need be."

To help with efforts to repatriate the remains of Somers and the Intrepid crew, go to the American Legion web site - http://legion.org/legislative/140074/13-us-sailors-remain-buried-libya click and sign the petition. To learn more about Somers and the Intrepid's mission.

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Bill Kelly said...

I agree they should be brought home. Altho right now with the situation that exists there, it may have to be later. I just can't fathom how they were left there for so long. Even most of our comrades in Vietnam have been brought home, and it is, to me, unforgivable they have not been brought home to the country they died for. Is it going to take a private expidition to go in to do wht our country shoulld have done 100 years ago?
Comment posted by vetmechanic on June 23, 2011, 11:59 pm.

Bill Kelly said...

It may take a while because of the civil war that rages in Libya, but the Senate and the Secretary of Defense need to join with the House of Representatives in getting behind this most worthy effort.
Somers and his crew were killed in action more than 200 years ago, but their courageous example lives on and inspires our warriors of today.
13 American heroes who died for their country need to be properly buried, with military honors, in America.
Comment posted by SeabeeVet on June 22, 2011, 10:00 am.