Monday, June 27, 2011
Red Castle Fort, Tripoli Harbor, Libya
RICHARD SOMERS AND THE BARBARY PIRATES – 200 YEARS FROM THE POINT – A Biography of America’s Forgotten Hero
Before he perished in the explosion of the USS Intrepid, the last thing Richard Somers saw was the outline of the ancient red walls of the old castle fort that stood out along the waterline on the horizon, just as it does today over two hundred years later.
In Tripoli, two centuries is like yesterday, as Roman emperors walked through the same ancient arches two thousand years ago, when the fort’s foundations were already a thousand years old.
It was from the fort’s ramparts that many battles were fought, including the US Navy’s attacks against the Tyrant of Tripoli, Yousef Karamnali, who was defeated in battle but permitted to remain in power by a treaty that he repeatedly broke.
A hundred and fifty years later Beneito Musellini gave speeches from the ramparts of the fort and Nazi general Irwin Rommel plotted his North African strategy in the shadow of its walls.
Master Commandant Richard Somers and the 12 officers and men of the USS Intrepid are also buried outside those walls in a grave that was partially disrupted by an Italian army road work crew in 1930. They discovered the remains of five of the men and reburied them in crypts at a nearby walled cemetery.
In 1949, when the USS Spokane put into Tripoli, they honored the men by conducting a ceremony that included the mayor of Tripoli, Yousef Karamanli, a descendent of the pirate king who Somers had fought a hundred and fifty years previous.
As the walls of the old red castle fort are now on the horizon again, ground zero in the revolutionary battle of Tripoli in 2011, we are reminded that Richard Somers and the men of the Intrepid are buried there, in the square outside the walls of the fort that is the epicenter of the revolution, Martyr’s Square.
The only martyrs actually buried there are Somers and the US Navy heroes who once fought for the same ideals that the Libyan revolutionaries say they are now fighting for – liberty, freedom, justice and democracy.
But who was Richard Somers?
And what can we learn from him today?