Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Key Date Chronology of Tripoli Graves

Old Castle Fort, Tripoli

Old Map of Tripoli Harbor showing wrecks of the frigate USS Philadelphia and USS Intrepid

Satellite View of Tripoli Harbor showing the original grave site and cemetery locations

Key Date Chronology

1778 – September – Richard Somers born in Somers Point, NJ.
1785 – June – Henry Wadsworth born in Falmouth, Mass., now Portland, Maine.
1804 – September 4 – Intrepid explodes in Tripoli harbor killing Somers, Wadsworth and ten volunteer sailors, whose remains wash ashore and are recovered.
1804 – September 5 – Intrepid crew buried in two nearby graves, by Dr. Cowdery and other American prisoners, “one cable’s length” (720 feet) from the walls of the old castle fort.
1805 – Lt. David Porter takes up collection for Tripoli Monument, which includes the names of all the officers killed in the first Barbary War, and is inscribed as their grave stone, indicating they anticipated that their bones would someday be reburied there. The Tripoli monument is placed on the grounds of the US Navy Yard in Washington.
1807 – February – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is born and named after Lt. Henry Wadsworth
1812 – British take Washington. The Tripoli monument is damaged, repaired and relocated to the grounds of the US Capitol.
1830 – Wife of British Counsel to Tripoli dies and is buried near existing graves and a wall is built around what becomes known as Old Protestant Cemetery.
1842 - Alleged mutiny aboard USS Somers II, a training vessel, ends in hanging of Midshipmen.
1845 - US Naval Academy established by Navy Secretary George Bancroft and Tripoli Monument relocated there.
1850 – James F. Cooper writes biography of Richard Somers and suggests that someday the captain of an American cruiser should return with his remains so that he can be reburied in his native land among his friends and loved ones.
1905 – President Theodore Roosevelt orders the repatriation of the remains of Captain John Paul Jones from a Paris crypt and he is reburied in the chapel at the Naval Academy.
1911 – Italians begin occupation of Libya
1930 – Italian Army road work crew uncovers the remains of five men from the original grave site and they are reburied at Old Protestant Cemetery.
1938 – President Franklin Roosevelt orders a search for the location of the graves of the men of the Intrepid in Tripoli. Mustafa Burchis, a Libyan working for the Italians at the port of Tripoli investigates and learns some of the men are buried at Old Protestant Cemetery and identifies five graves as those of the men of the Intrepid.
1940 – World War II. Burgis’ report is lost at the American Embassy in Rome.
1948 – Muastafa Burchis informs the new US Ambassador of his research and the members of the State Department, US Navy, British and Libyans place markers, hold memorial ceremony at the Old Protestant Cemetery in 1949.
1950 – 1956 – Two reports are published in the US Naval Proceedings journal about the graves.
1950-1969 – The Officer Wife’s Club of Wheelus Air Force base maintain the cemetery graves.
1977 – Two women from New Jersey discovers the displaced graves at the cemetery, overgrown with weeds, and writes about them in American Legion Magazine.
1980 – Rep. William Hughes (D. 2NJ) introduces legislation in Congress to reserve graves for the 13 men of the Intrepid at Arlington National Cemetery in anticipation of their repatriation.
1988 – Pres. Ronald Reagan orders the US military to bomb Tripoli in retaliation for terrorist attacks against Americans in Europe. Two US Navy pilots are shot down, and the remains of one is recovered through the efforts of the Vatican.
2002 – Members of the Somers family and Somers Point, N.J. civic leaders petition US government and the Gadhafi Charities Foundation for repatriation. US State Dept. says there is no diplomatic relations with Libya.
2004 – Gadhafi renounces terrorism, gives up Weapons of Mass Destruction and the US reestablishes formal diplomatic relations with Libya.
2004 – Libyans excavate the original grave site and discover “bones and buttons”
2008 – “Secrets of the Old Protestant Cemetery” book is published in Libya.
2009- Gadhaif celebrates the 40th anniversary of his coup with a parade at Green Square, site of the original, unmarked mass graves.
2009 September 5 - Secretary of State Condi Rice visits Gadhafi in Tripoli, ignorant of the anniversary of the burial of the men of the Intrpid.
2010 March - Chief of Naval Operations Adml. Gary Roughead determines that the cemetery is to be the final resting place for those men of the USS Intrepid, but does not mention the original unmarked mass grave site outside the old castle walls.
2011- February 17 – Revolution in Libya begins, which Gadhafi violent suppresses. NATO prevents his military from attacking Benghazi and civil war ends with the liberation of Tripoli in mid-August, when Green Square is renamed Martyrs Square in honor of all those who fought and died.
2011 – June – Delegation from Somers Point meets with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R. 2NJ), Mike Rogers (R. Mich) and the American Legion in Washington DC.
2011 – Rep. Rogers introduces House resolution to repatriate the remains of the men of the Intrepid from Tripoli, co-sponsored by LoBiondo.
2011 – Rep. Rogers attaches the Rogers/LoBiondo repatriation resolution to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act (DAA) as an amendment, which passes the House.
2011 – Nov. Sen. Dean Heller (R. Nev.) introduces complimentary bill in the Senate, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Boozman (R. Arkansa), and endorsed by Senators Stowe, Collins, Lautenberg, Menendez, Brown, Kerry, Webb and others.
2011 – Dec. Sen. John McCain (R. Arizona), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) removes the Heller Repatriation Amendment from the DAA before it is approved.
2011 – Dec. 6 the SASC and HASC begin Conference to iron out differences in the DAA approved by the House and the Senate, and ten US Senators write letter to conference leaders to re-insert the Repatriation Amendment to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act.
2011 - Dec. 31 - President Signs Defense Authorization Act that includes a provision calling for the Navy to evaluate the graves of the men of the Intrepid in Tripoli and report back before September 2012.

Old Protestant Cemetery sits precariously close to harbor. More than half of those buried there have been repatriated to their home countries or reburied elsewhere.

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