Friday, December 23, 2011

From the Shores of Tripoli to Dover & Arlington

From the Shores of Tripoli to Dover and Arlington
By William Kelly

If the men of the Intrepid had been killed in a helicopter crash in the mountains of Laos or Camboda, whenever it happened and however remote and inaccessible their bodies were located, they would be home now.

When we started the most recent effort to repatriate the remains of Richard Somers and the US Navy heroes from Tripoli all we asked was that they be treated like any other US serviceman who is killed in action and returned home. The process is already established and the POW/MP office has quietly repatriated the remains of thousands of US servicemen who have been killed in combat in from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US military runs on policies however, and one of those policies is that they only apply the “leave no one behind” tradition to those killed since World War I, even though there have been exceptions, such as the repatriation of the remains of John Paul Jones from Paris.

When a US serviceman is killed or dies abroad, their remains are taken to American military bases in Hawaii or Germany where they are given a full forensic autopsy before being flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they are either handed over to the family or buried at Arlingtion or a veterans cemetery with full military honors.

Both Dover AFB and Arlington National Cemetery have been subjects of recent scandals, Dover involving the disposal of the partial remains of some of the dead in a landfill dump, while discrepancies have been found in nearly one quarter of the 300,000 graves at Arlingtion.

Although the officers responsible have been reassigned, “new leadership” teams have been put in place, the partial remains now disposed of at sea and Arlington has upgraded their record keeping policies, these incidents have called attention to both Dover and Arlingiton and the policies and practices that are undertaken in the burial of those killed in action.

Not unknown to scandal, Dover was also where two nuclear bombs went missing, bombs that were intentionally disposed of in the ocean off of Cape May, New Jersey, and never recovered.

During the Iraq war President George Bush ordered that the press and photographers be banned from Dover AFB so photos of the dead would not be used to encourage anti-war sentiment, though that rule has been relaxed so the families can now choose whether or not they want photographs or reporters.

The American attitude towards the return of the remains of their war dead is much different than that of Canada, where they hold what is known as a “Ramp Ceremony” whenever the casket of a dead service member is returned home. Everyone in the area stops what they are doing and salutes the remains as it is taken off the plane and transported from the ramp.

While the United States has a similar ceremony, it is not conducive if the public, the press and photographers are banned from the area and forbidden to photograph the event.

More recently a photo has been posted on the internet that appears to indicate some of the service members who were stationed at Dover didn’t take their jobs very seriously, though the origins and meaning of the photo has yet to be properly explained.

In 2007, the military secretly repatriated the remains of 70 Americans from the cemetery at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, without identifying or notifying the families involved. Only after all of the remains were in Dover was there an attempt to locate and notify the families of those exhumed, and there is no indication of what became of the remains of those who were not identified. Were they reburied at a military cemetery in Delaware or did they end up with the partial remains and dumped at the local landfill?

And why weren’t the 13 men of the Intrepid included in the mass exhumation and transport of the remains of 70 Americans from Tripoli when the opportunity presented itself?

How the military deals with its dead, especially those who die in combat, is now the subject of three reports – the Dover AF photo investigation, the Arlington burial scandal and the House/Senate Armed Services Committee Conference evaluation of the Tripoli graves.

Will the military assigned to do these reports sweep the dust of our heroes under the rug and whitewash the truth, or will they do the right thing and apply their policies across the board to all servicemen, regardless of when they served?

Will they leave the remains of our naval heroes buried in an unmarked grave under a parking lot at Martyrs Square, or return them home with dignity and bury them with honor and respect?


(ANSAmed) - TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 2 - The Bishop of Tripoli, Mons. Martinelli, celebrated today in the presence of Italian Ambassador Francesco Paolo Trupiano and numerous representatives of the Italian community the traditional mass for commemoration of the dead, served at the altar which towers above the crypt where Italo Balbo was buried in the Italian cemetery in the Libyan capital.

The Hammangi Cemetery, where the remains of at least 8,600 compatriots rest, and defined for years as the "cemetery of shame" or "the forgotten cemetery", is recovering little by little its dignity thanks to a recovery project launched in July 2006. For years the Hammangi Cemetery has been a real outdoor dump, profaned by unknown hands which have uprooted the crosses, broken the stones, rummaged tombs searching for some gold chains, or just for the pleasure to profane. A grievous, dramatic picture which accommodated the first of 20,000 Italian refugees in Libya pursued in 1970 by Colonel Gaddafi, who in November 2004 received a permission to return in Tripoli and faced a real slaughter. The International Management Group (IMG), an international body which has been entrusted with the environmental recovery intervention - funded by MAE - of the entire cemetery designed by architect Paolo Caccia Dominioni, has just completed the works on the exhumation of 6,472 bodies, of which 3,730 have already been placed in new urns and the others are kept for now in a underground crypt of a military shrine, which has kept for years the remains of 11,000 soldiers who died during the colonial war, awaiting their transfer into new urns, once the works are finished.

Only 23 bodies remain for exhumation, which will be transferred in Italy, once the necessary procedures completed. The works on the recovery of the whole area within the perimeter fence continue, the Libyan authorities will be charged with the incinerator used to burn some 5,000 old wooden coffins and clothings of the exhumed bodies, as well as with the iron coffins.

Now the third phase of the project remains which, according to the commitments taken on at the time by the authorities in Tripoli, envisages among other things the recovery of the outer large square and the construction of a new road to access the main road. The whole area surrounding the new perimeter, some 12 hectares, will be returned to the municipality of Tripoli, which will create a green area there. "I expect that it will be no longer described as the cemetery of shame," Giovanna Ortu, president of the association of Italians repatriated from Libya (AIRL), which took part in the 'travel of memory' in November 2004, said. The hope is fulfilled also thanks to the patient work of the guardian angel of the Italians in Libya buried in Hammangi, Bruno Dalmasso, who was in charge of the diggings to exhume the bodies and identified them one by one. Thanks to his constancy and to that of the Italian Consulate at least 95% of these dead now have names.(ANSAmed).
Tripoli, Libya, April 3, 2011..El Hammangi cemetery. A lone dog wanders around a broken statue in the italian part of the cemetery, rebuilt in 1951 by Caccio Domignioni.

Repatriated Americans Laid To Rest At Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Press Release
August 30, 2007

The remains of 54 Americans were laid to rest in a solemn ceremony at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro Friday, after making a long journey from their initial resting place at a cemetery in Libya.

The 52 infants and two adults were first interred at Hammangi Cemetery, an Italian cemetery located in Tripoli, Libya, between 1956 and 1970, when the U.S. military operated Wheelus Air Base there. "Family members of Airmen were often buried in the cemetery because, at that time, service members did not receive entitlements to have the remains of their loved ones flown back to the U.S. for burial," said Mark Blair, chief of Air Force Mortuary Affairs.

Not long before major renovations were set to begin at Hammangi Cemetery, U.S. government officials were told that the graves of the American military dependents would be disturbed and that the plans for the new cemetery area did not include a burial site for those remains.

In coordination with the U.S. State Department, an Air Force Services Mortuary Team, led by Mr. Blair, went to Libya and exhumed the remains, taking great care to maintain the individual identity of each set of remains throughout the process. The team brought the remains to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, where they were held while officials exhausted all efforts to contact the families to make final disposition arrangements.
In total, 72 American citizens were repatriated this spring. Of the 72 remains that were repatriated, however, the families of 18 of them chose to have their loved ones interred in various locations. This left 54 individuals without a final resting place on American soil.

Because of the amount of time that had transpired between the original internment and repatriation of the bodies, Air Force officials were unable to make contact with every family. It was through a close working relationship between the Air Force, Delaware state officials and the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs that the remaining bodies could be interred in the cemetery at Millsboro.

"I am very honored that the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery is the final resting place for these Americans," said Delaware Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor, who attended the ceremony. "Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work and coordination, especially on the part of Tony Davila, Executive Director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, and the Air Force."

Among those present at the ceremony were Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ronald Harvell, Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Roffman, and Father Michael Darcy, who provided Protestant, Jewish and Catholic prayers, respectively, providing for the particular religious needs for the internment of each of the 54 repatriated Americans.

Cemetery American Infant and Adult Interments ("Kindergraves") 1958-1972, relocated 2007
Wheelus Air Force Base, Tripoli, Libya
"The Littlest Uaddans"
Air Force searches for kin of Americans buried at former base in Libya

by Scott Schonauer
Stars and Stripes, European Edition, May 19th, 2007

Kaiserslautern, Germany - The Air Force is looking for the families of 72 deceased Americans repatriated near a former American military base in Libya.

In a surprising display of how relations between the U.S. and Libya have warmed, American military cargo planes were allowed to land in the country last March to transport the remains to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

The American dead are believed to be family members of airmen once stationed at Wheelus Air Base, home to B-52 bombers from 1958 to 1972. The remains, some of them nearly fifty years old, include 70 infants and two adults.

Plans to reduce the size of the cemetery prompted the transfer. Air Force officials did not release information on the repatriation until now due to the State Department's concern over the fragile, yet improving relationship between the two countries.

The military has set up a hotline and has reached out to Wheelus High School alumni in hopes of tracking down family members. Air Force Mortuary Affairs officials declined to be interviewed for this story and would only answer questions by e-mail. The U.S. embassy in Tripoli did not return phone calls or e-mails.

"While some families have been located and notified, this is an enormous task considering the limited information that we have available to work with," the air Forces Mortuary Affairs office wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. "Since all of the cemetery records were handwritten with only limited information recorded, it will take some time to ensure we locate the next-of-kin."

Wheelus, which was located just east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, served as a U.S. Air Force base until Moammar Gadhafi ousted the king in 1969. The Italian military used to run the cemetery and offered free plots to Americans stationed at Wheelus when the Air Force used the base.

A team of three mortuary affairs specialists accompanied by a financial specialist spent two weeks in February recovering the remains with the help of locally contracted workers.

A C-130 transport plane assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing's 37th Airlift Squadron flew the dead to Ramstein Air Base, where they were transferred to a C-5 cargo plane and sent to Dover.

"The mission to recover U.S. remains from the cemetery in Libya was absolutely the right thing to do, and the 86th Airlift Wing was proud to have a role," Brig. Gen. Richard Johnston, the 86th commander, said in a written statement to Stars and Stripes. "The government of Libya was very helpful in facilitating this humanitarian effort, and we appreciate their cooperation which allowed the United States to make that happen."

The remains will remain at Dover Air Force Base until family members can be contacted. If the families cannot be contacted, the military will bury them at a federal or state cemetery near the air base, the Air Force said.

Relations between the U.S. and Libya have been confrontational for a span of nearly three decades up until several years ago.

The U.S. government restored diplomatic relations to Libya last year after the North African country renounced its support of terrorism and agreed to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

E-mail Scott Schonauer at

Randy Keel at the HQ Air Force Mortuary Affairs in San Antonio TX provided me the following information in August 2007:

I have attached a complete listing of remains repatriated from the Hammangi Cemetery in Tripoli, Libya in March of 2007.

Our office utilized multiple angles to locate and contact surviving next of kin including genealogical research, National Archives, Air Force Historical Research Agency Archives, Wheelus High School Alumni Association and the former Tripoli Residents Association.

Those remains claimed by surviving family members were processed by members of our staff, provided a specification casket, and interred according to the families instructions. A member of our staff and a uniformed Air Force member was present at each interment with the family's permission.

Those remains that were unclaimed or in which no surviving next-of-kin were located were processed by members of our staff, provided a specification casket, and provided a dignified interment with an ecumenical graveside service at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro, DE.
Of the original 72 remains recovered, 18 were claimed by family members.

Due to privacy concerns for those families, we would ask that you do not publicly post the fathers' names.

Although many years have passed, such a loss remains very sensitive to many of these families.
I have transcribed the names and dates of death from Randy Keel's original spreadsheet. Except where noted, burial was one to three days after death. For each burial, the spreadsheet also provides the father's name. Occasionally there was some additional information, such as the name of the officiating clergyman or the morgue technician. The original records are handwritten logs.

American Children Interred at the Italian Cemetery, Tripoli, Libya,
from 1956-1966

Protestant Section #16 - ground burial

Talcott 6 Jan 1960
Matsuda, infant 1 Feb 1960
Batcelor, Benjamin Jr. [sic] 2 Feb 1960
Johnson, Richard Charles 15 Mar 1960
Lions, Albert 22 Jul 1960
Kiryakakis, Peter 30 Aug 1960
Judd, Edward Eugene 14 Sept 1960
Brandt, infant 4 Oct 1960
Richardson, Michael A. 7 Nov 1960
Sheekan H., Barbara 21 Nov 1960
Stiffler 17 Dec 1960
Dreker, James Robert 17 Dec 1960
Halfhill, James Donald 13 Mar 1961
Bowersox, Kimberly 24 Mar 1961
Nordsine, Barbara 3 April 1961
Hoslis, James David 2 May 1961
Wiese, Infant 12 June 1961
Dumas, Rodney 10 Jul 1961
English, Gina Maria 1 Nov 1961
Franklin, Patricia Jean 21 Nov 1961
De Graw, Yvonnia 22 Mar 1962
Pierce, Kathleen 25 Mar 1962
Hood, Linda 5 Apr 1962
Perkins, infant 11 April 1962
Gass, Jarred R. 29 Jul 1962
Glass, Frank 3 Dec 1962
Householder, Vicki 5 Mar 1963
Wright, Michele 11 Mar 1963
Butler, Mark Edward 2 Apr 1963
Baker 10 Apr 1963
Shelton 25 Apr 1963
Dean, Rodney Earl 5 June 1963
White, infant 5 June 1963
Pearsen, Evalyn 7 Jul 1963 (adult American)
Newlin, Gadios James 5 Aug 1963
Hathaway, infant 7 Aug 1963
Chewning, infant 30 Aug 1963
Griffin, infant 28 Nov 1963
Perry, Regina Adelle 10 Dec 1963
Bow, infant 13 Jul 1964
Miles, infant 26 Jan 1965
Alexander, infant 5 Apr 1965
Gibson, Stanly Gaylan 27 Apr 1965
Lochridge 24 May 1965
Farrell, Susan Teresa 9 Nov 1965
Woodall, Robert 14 Mar 1966
Lott 3 Sep 1966
Faragallah, Shawkat 16 Feb 1956
Coffee, Jo Lynn 3 Feb 1957
Calhouri, William Josef 15 Sept 1957
Klein, Diana Patricia 27 Jun 1958
Carmos, Gavin Vincent 13 Sept 1958
Thomson 11 Oct 1958
Marshall, John Edwards 14 Apr 1959
Marshall, Mary Margaret 13 Apr 1959

Catholic Section #6, ground burial

Arkheruis, Anne Evans 5 Jul 1959
Du Vernay 4 Jun 1958
Eckbauer, Carmen 29 Jan 1959
Du Fresne, Norman 7 Apr 1959
Leach, Kenneth L. 18 Jun 1961
Winkler 5 Jul 1961
Rogers, Billy W. 24 Jan 1962
Lockard 3 Jun 1962
Meador 2 Jul 1962
Manfred 10 Dec 1962
Raymond, Olivia 20 Feb 1963
Rupertt, Romeo 12 Mar 1963
Elbel, Hope 31 Sept 1964 [sic]
Simalton 12 Mar 1964
Kovacs, Teresa Marie 10 Mar 1964
White, Amy 26 Nov 1962, interment 11 Dec 1962

Mausoleum entombment, adult, probably in the Protestant section
Allen, Laura Kelsey born 25 Nov 1884, Somerville MA, died 20 Nov 1960
Bailey, Ellla M. born 16 Dec 1884 Houston TX, died 26 Aug 1953
Tripoli, Libya, April 3, 2011..El Hammangi cemetery. More than 4500 commonwealth fighters from WWII are buried in the British Cemetery, beautifully maintained by the British embassy in Tripoli.
Tripoli, Libya, April 3, 2011..El Hammangi cemetery. Hundreds of non muslem foreigners, mostly African migrant workers, are buried in a remote part of the cemetery.

Tripoli, Libya, April 3, 2011..El Hammangi cemetery. Hundreds of illegal would be immigrants to Europe are washed away on the Libyan coast when their frail boats capsize during the perilous trip to Italy; many of those often unidentfied bodies are buried in a remote section of Hammangi old cemetery in Tripoli.

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