Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hero's Homecoming - 1805

“I cannot but be a little flattered with the reception I have met with here,” he wrote his wife from Manhattan, where he landed in February 1805. ‘The people are disposed to think that I have rendered some service to my country….” - Commodore Edward Preble  

When the first American officers returned home from Tripoli they were given a hero's homecoming, they were toasted at formal balls, briefed the President and were the subjects of songs, one written by Francis Scott Key. 

The Specter of Islam -  

When the warrior returns from
       The battle afar
To the home and country he
    Has nobly defended,
Oh! Warm be the welcome to
    Gladden his ear,
And loud be the Joys that his
     Perils are ended! ....

Where mixt with the olive the
      Laurel shall wave
And form a bright wreath for
      The bow of the brave. 

American Hero's Homecoming

Commodore Edward Preble, commander of the Mediterranean Squadron, after successfully blockading Tripoli harbor, leading five attacks against the pirates, and recapturing and burning the frigate Philadelphia, knew he would soon be replaced and wanted to take on a last, possibly decisive action, so he approved the suicide mission that sent Richard Somers to his death.  

The premature explosion of the Intrepid in Tripoli harbor and the failure of that mission left Preble despondent and depressed on his long voyage home aboard the USS John Adams.

After all, he lost the Philadelphia, and its 300 man crew were still imprisoned in the dungeons of the Tripoli castle, and the loss of the Intrepid cost him the lives of three promising, young officers.  

Arriving in New York on 25 February 1805, he was quite surprised to find himself a hero.

The activities of the Mediterranean squadron were actively followed by the press and the Barbary War, although officially undeclared by Congress, was a popular war that Americans supported and wanted to win.

The first two Commodores sent to fight the pirates held back and failed to intimidate the enemy, but Preble sent his ships out as soon as they were ready and ordered them into action. And when he got there, Preble led five assaults against the pirate fleet, each a pronounced victory, despite the loss of two other promising young officers – Caldwell and James Decatur, the younger brother of Stephen. Both of their names – Caldwell and James Decatur, are on the Tripoli Monument.

Even though the Philadelphia was lost, fighting to win the release of the captured crew gave the American public more resolve to see the conflict through, and Decatur’s early special ops mission to sink the Philadelphia made him one of the first American naval heroes in the public eye.

Preble provided the leadership and Decatur was one of “Preble’s Boys,” the young officers who served under him who continued the fight, won the war and went on to distinguish themselves in defeating the once invincible British navy during the War of 1812.

According to Commander Tyrone G. Martin, when Commodore Edward Preble reached New York, “he was less than satisfied with the fact that he had been superseded in command of the Mediterranean Squadron. During the three days he spent in the city prior to departing for Washington, however, he found that he was a hero, and as he traveled south, he learned that the sentiment was national.”

Every town and city he passed through came out to greet Preble, and he was the guest of honor at dinner balls such as the one held for him in Philadelphia

Arriving in Washington D.C. on Jefferson’s second inauguration day (March 3), the Navy Secretary Robert Smith took him to see Jefferson immediately to report on the situation, and Congress ordered a special gold medal struck in his honor.

“During the next two weeks,” Martin writes, “the commodore was the center of attention in Washington, spending his days in conferences relating to the prosecution of the war and the future of the Navy, and his evenings dining with Jefferson, James Madison, and  other notables.”

Ian W. Toll, in his book “Six Frigates – The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy” (W.W. Norton, 2006 p., 257-258) Chapter Ten, wrote:

“Ex-Commodore Preble came home with the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth. On his watch, the navy had lost one of its finest frigates and seen a crew of more than three hundred American officers and sailors thrown into the enemy’s hands. At the height of his squadron’s attacks on Tripoli, Preble had learned that he was to suffer the personal humiliation of being superseded by Samuel Barron. The last act of his command had been to send thirteen Americans to their deaths in the premature explosion of the Intrepid. He had assured his superiors that he would force Yusuf to capitulate. He had failed to do so. Edward Preble was forty-three years old, the third oldest captain on the active list. His health was less than perfect, and his future in the U.S. Navy seemed uncertain.”

“But to his surprise and gratification, Preble was greeted by his country-men as a returning hero. ‘I cannot but be a little flattered with the reception I have met with Here,” he wrote his wife from Manhattan, where he landed in February 1805. ‘The people are disposed to think that I have rendered some service to my country.’ In one important respect, Preble had succeeded where his predecessors had failed. He had not won the war, but he had at least carried the fight to the enemy. To a nation eager for any kind of good news from the Mediterranean, the destruction of the Philadelphia and the August 1804 attacks on Tripoli had been psychologically rewarding, if nothing else, Preble had fought hard, and honorably. In the eyes of his countrymen, who had been conditioned to expect very little, it was enough.”

“Letters from the Mediterranean left no doubt that Preble’s vigorous prosecution of the war had made its mark. For the first time in years, said William Eaton, ‘an American is no longer ashamed of an American Uniform here…and a Barbary cruiser views an American flag in this sea with as much caution as a skulking debtor does any deputy sheriff in our country.’”

“Pope Pius VII, from his seat in Rome, was said to have framed the war as a clash of civilizations. ‘The American Commander,’ he was quoted as saying of Preble, ‘with a small force and in a short span of time, has done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages!’ And Admiral Nelson – in naval circles a higher authority than the pope – was said to have remarked that Decatur’s mission to destroy the Philadelphia was ‘the most bold and daring act of the age.’”

“After three gratifying days in New York, Preble set out on the overland journey to Washington, where he was to debrief the Navy Secretary. He arrived March 4, the day of Jefferson’s inaugural ceremony. When Preble presented himself at the Navy Office, Secretary Smith immediately walked him across to the White House to call on the commander in chief. Jefferson had already forwarded Preble’s official dispatches to Congress with a cover message lauding ‘the energy and judgment displayed by this excellent officer, through the whole course of the service lately confided to him.’ Congress in turn, had voted a resolution to award Preble a gold medal, ‘emblematical of the attacks on the town, batteries, and naval force of Tripoli.’ Swords would be presented to each of the officers of the squadron, and the enlisted men would be paid a bonus equivalent to one month’s pay.”

“During the two weeks that Preble remained in the capital, he was eagerly sought out by administration officials and members of Congress. He spent several days with Secretary Smith at the Navy Office, poring over maps of the Mediterranean. He dined at the White House with Jefferson on the sixth and at the home of James and Dolley Madison on the twelfth. His return to Maine was a multi-city victory tour: Philadelphia, Trenton, New York, Boston – in each place he was greeted as a national hero. Banquets were given in his honor. In Philadelphia, he stayed with Stephen Decatur’s parents and had his portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale. On arriving in Boson, he was invited to Quincy for an audience with former President Adams. Rumors circulated that he was about to be appointed Secretary of the Navy.”

According to Martin, “On his way back to New England, the reception he received in Baltimore inspired a local lawyer, Francis Scott Key, to write a little ditty that was based on the melody of an English drinking song.”

"The Specter of Islam"

 It went like this:

When the warrior returns from
       The battle afar
To the home and country he
    Has nobly defended,
Oh! Warm be the welcome to
    Gladden his ear,
And loud be the Joys that his
     Perils are ended!
In the full tide of song, let his
      Fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let
      Us gratefully throng.
Where mixt with the olive the
      Laurel shall wave
And form a bright wreath for
      The bow of the brave. 

“During the War of 1812,” Martin notes, “the Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key would be inspired to write the “Star Spangled Banner,” the national anthem that is played and sung at every major event in the country.”

Indeed, and the melody of the Star Spangled Banner is appropriated from the same English drinking song, “Anacreon In Heaven,” the theme song for a centuries old British social club that still exists today.

As Robert J. Allison notes in his article on “The Specter of Islam,” the song was written by Francis Scott Key, not for the return of Preble, but for the homecoming of Lieutenants Charles Stewart and Stephen Decatur, two of the three 'Musketeers' who attended the Philadelphia Academy together, enlisted in the Navy together, and served under John Barry and Edward Preble together.

Like Preble, Stewart and Decatur were greeted as returning heroes, as were the former prisoners from the USS Philadelphia, while the remains of the 13 officers and men of the Intrepid were left behind "on the shores of Tripoli." 

Now it is time to bring home the remains of the rest of the Tripoli heroes. 

Tim McGrath on Richard Somers & John Barry

Richard Somers Day at Somers Point, NJ - September 9, 2012
Speaker: Tim McGrath
Author of John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail

It's an honor to be here with you all today.

George Washington's decision to ask John Barry to serve as senior officer of the United States Navy in 1794 was an easy one for the president to make. Washington had known Barry for 18 years, and was well aware of the Irishman's skills as a sailor and courage as a warrior. During the dark days of December, 1776, Barry led his crew into the Continental Army where they saw action at the Battle of Princeton.

Captain and General corresponded with each other throughout the war, the most memorable dispatch being one of Barry's to Washington during the Valley Forge winter. After Barry captured three British ships off Reedy Island in the Delaware, he sent Washington a list of the engineering tools and other goods taken from the ship's hold, sending his letter by courier along with two other items of plunder: a large cheese and a "jar of Pickled oysters which crave the general's acceptance."

After Barry agreed to serve as first among the navy's captains he spent three long years overseeing the construction of the first frigates, including his flagship, the United States, a twin sister of the Constitution. Once she was launched, the commodore required junior officers.

For two of these positions he didn't have to look far, enlisting his friend Stephen Decatur's son, Stephen Junior, and that youngster's best friend from Episcopal Academy, Richard Somers, who also happened to be related to Barry's wife, Sarah.

Sadly, the John Barry of 1798 was no longer the dashing hero of the American Revolution. He was plagued with chronic asthma and also suffered from the gout. But he made sure that the United States was both a tight and happy ship. She was, in fact, a floating naval academy.

Under Barry's watchful eye, young Somers and Decatur, along with James Barron, Charles Stewart, and others, learned navigation, mathematics, and gunnery skills. And he set for them a visible example of how a commanding officer carried himself and treated his men. More officers were promoted up the ranks from the United States than from any other ship during the Quasi-War, the naval conflict fought between America and France under the administration of John Adams.

Below decks, "Barry's boys" were obsessed with the code duello - the practice of fighting duels over the slightest offense. Most of you are familiar with the story of how Somers and Decatur engaged in playful banter while Decatur was dressing for shore leave. With three other midshipmen present, Somers kidded Decatur over his foppish dress, while Decatur called Somers a fool. Afterwards, when Somers asked his colleagues to partake in a bottle of wine, they refused. In letting Decatur call him a fool, Somers was in their eyes a coward, and they refused his wine. Upon returning to ship, Decatur called their accusation ridiculous, but only an apology to Somers would mollify them. Somers might be Decatur's best friend, but he wasn't about to lose face - or honor - by apologizing. Accordingly, Somers challenged all three to a duel, just like D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers - except their weapons would be pistols, not rapiers. Of course, Decatur served as his second.

The next morning they were rowed ashore, where Somers faced each boy at twenty paces. The first, shot him in the arm; the second, wounded him so severely in the hip that he could not stand to face his third accuser. Instead, Decatur knelt beside him, holding Somers' right arm steady enough to graze his last opponent. His courage more than proven, they were rowed back to ship. Hopefully they drank that wine.

I mention this affair because Barry had to know about it, either before or afterwards. Barry's wife, Sarah - a remarkable woman in her own right - was devoted to both her husband and her extended family. Her letters to John, while always loving, are at times an 18th century version of "you never write, you never call…" One can only imagine the letter Barry would have received from her if her relative had been more seriously hurt.

Over the next three years Somers sailed aboard the United States. She flew the broad blue pennant Barry's rank entitled him to as senior commander. Richard Somers saw more than his share of action, as the United States captured a fistful of French ships, and sailed through several severe storms. On one diplomatic visit to Portugal, the officers hiked up a high hill to enjoy the splendid view the crest provided, only to watch in horror as Barry was stricken with a debilitating asthma attack that left them all wondering if he was dying.

Somers participated in two incidents with his captain during the Quasi-War that he later wrote of in detail. While the United States was being refitted in Philadelphia, word reached Barry from Newcastle that several sailors were confined in irons after being accused of mutiny. He sent Lieutenant Somers downriver to investigate. Somers, convinced of their innocence, went back to Barry and wisely suggested that he personally obtain their release. The commodore accompanied Somers back to Newcastle where, as Somers reported, Barry "ordered them out of Irons, who had been confined for 6 weeks, the poor fellows on their being relieved and seeing the Commodore gave him three Cheers."

At the end of the Quasi-War, Barry was ordered to sail the United States to Washington with a skeleton crew. She was to be "laid up." He took Somers as his senior officer. Once docked, Barry made his report to the Secretary of the Navy, Samuel Smith, who informed Barry he could return to Philadelphia "whenever it was agreeable." The United States could be placed in Somers' capable hands. Tired and careworn, that very hour was agreeable to Barry. He returned to his cabin, packed his belongings, and came on deck. Somers had the bosun pipe all hands and then ordered Barry's pennant lowered for the last time. Barry never went to sea again.

For the last two years of the commodore's life it was mainly Richard Somers who kept Barry informed on naval affairs. When a second-in-command position became available upon the frigate Boston, Barry happily recommended Somers for the post to her captain, his old friend Daniel MacNeill, who gratefully told Barry that, as Somers "has served under your command & to your satisfaction" the position was his.

Somers was in Philadelphia in early 1803 when a terminally ill Barry declined the offer to command the American squadron fighting the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.

He was one of the witnesses to Barry's last will and testament. Later that year, while serving aboard the Boston, his brother-in-law, William Jonas Keen, wrote Somers that Barry was "now thought to be on his last tack." Barry died on September 13, 1803, leaving behind an exemplary record of service and accomplishment. Tragically, Somers died less than a year later, his death at so young an age presaging the countless other American heroes who to this day are taken from home and family far too young in life for us to ever fully comprehend.

What we can do is what we are doing here today: remembering a true hero and patriot, and taking time each day to say a prayer that those servicemen and women who chose to follow Richard Somers' example come home to us safe and sound in heart and mind, body and soul. Thank you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Brief History of the Tripoli Project

A Brief History of the Tripoli Project

The Tripoli Project officially came into being shortly after the Arab Spring revolutions reached Libya in February, 2011, when the turmoil in the region suggested that a new effort to repatriate the remains of Richard Somers and the men of the Intrepid could be successful.

Where other, similar efforts in the past failed, the Tripoli Project has come closer than ever before of obtaining the repatriation of the remains of the American Naval heroes from Tripoli, but it too is fighting the Pentagon’s outdated policies.

The brainchild of Michael Caputo, a Florida based public relations specialist, Caputo convinced the effort so far advanced by the Somers’ family and the citizens and officials of Somers Point, New Jersey, had to be expanded to include the families of the others as well as national veterans groups and Congress. 

Caputo first came to Somers Point, the home of Intrepid Captain Richard Somers, representing a century’s old major building and construction firm that was chosen by the city to develop the hospital garage and other projects. The Republican mayor Dan Reilly and city council had already endorsed the repatriation effort and wrote letters to the State Dept., Congress and the Libyans, but Caputo would shift that effort into high gear.

Caputo hired a Libyan lawyer/lobbyist who made contact with the Gadhafi Charities Foundation, that made the multi-million dollar payoffs to the victims of the Lockerbe terrorist attack. He also began to negotiate with Dr. Anag, the director of Libyan antiquities whose office is in the old castle fort that overlooks Green Square. After the success of the Feb. 17th revolution it was renamed Martyr’s Square, but the only real martyrs buried there are those of the American navy heroes.

While the Gadhafi family had no qualms about repatriation, the US military did, so Caputo further explored the private repatriation through his lobbyist, who one day reported that some Libyans had excavated a mass grave with buttons and bones. Caputo said they were relieved when told them they had been buried by US navy men from the captured frigate USS Philadelphia, but then they recovered them.

The international situation flared up at the time and the Libyans broke off contact with Caputo, who announced in an Atlantic City Press newspaper article that they had gone as far as they could and were going no further at that point in time, and the remained of the funds were returned to the anonymous benefactor and the effort ended.

Then with the Arab Spring revolutions and unrest in Libya a new effort was launched and Caputo helped organize it. This new campaign began with a new internet petition, a web site and a trip to Washington DC to lobby Congress. I was invited to go on the trip in June, 2011, which was led by Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser and included Dean Somers of the Somers’ extended family, Somers Point Planning Board member Greg Sykora, Walt Gregory of the Somers Point Business Association, Sally Hastings – president of the Somers Point Historical Society and a veteran who is making a documentary film of the repatriation effort.

Jack Glasser, an Air Force veteran of many years, is the best mayor Somers Point has had in a long time. A no-nonsense guy with fortitude and good sense, he is committed to the repatriation of Somers.

Walt Gregory first got me interested in the subject in the early 1990s when he asked me to write a cover-story article on Somers for the Somers Point Business Association tabloid. Greg Sykora had asked me to address the SPBA one day over a decade later, which I did at a breakfast meeting at the Greate Bay Country Club, where I stressed the economic and tourists benefits the city and entire area would get with the repatriation.

Dean Somers, a Somers Point native, had only recently learned that he was related to the same branch of the family as Richard Somers and was learning more every day about the history and the previous, failed repatriation attempts.

In Washington, we first met with Michael Caputo and Annapolis, Maryland historian Chipp Reid at a Congressional cafeteria, before being escorted to the office of our representative Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R. NJ). Frank has always been a big supporter of Somers Point and repatriation, and always gives a speech on the annual Richard Somers Day event.

LoBiondo explained that he was a member of the House Intelligence Committee wh.ose chairman Mike Rogers (R. Mich) supported the repatriation efforts and was recruited to help. Shortly thereafter, Rogers himself showed up at LoBiondo’s office and invited us over to his office where he explained how he was an Army veteran who had been to the Tripoli graves and was going to introduce a bill in Congress that calls for the repatriation. He also introduced us to his chief military aide, an Army Reserve officer who did all the hard work to make it happen.

After the meeting in Congress, we got into the van and proceeded to the other side of town to the offices of the American Legion. Sitting around the table in their board room, we took turns telling the national commander of the Legion and his aides, what we were trying to do and why they should support repatriation. When it was my turn, I told them a previous effort that failed was sparked by an article in the American Legion magazine by two women from New Jersey who stumbled across the neglected graves at Old Protestant Cemetery and commented on their sad state. That effort led to the formation of a committee, a petition and Congressional resolution and went no where. But they tried.

The Legion decided to help us, and at their next national convention approved a resolution calling for the repatriation of the Tripoli heroes and they made an excellent documentary film that was presented on their web site to over 2 million veterans.

One of the veterans who saw the video, A. J. Castella, from Massachusetts, immediately contacted his Senators and made appointments to meet with them personally, did so, and got them to support the Rogers/LoBiondo bill in the Senate.

The Maine family of Captain Richard Somers’ second officer Henry Wadsworth, contacted by Caputo, also began to lend their support to the effort, and the Senators from Maine also voiced support for repatriation.

Then, in a master-stroke of political machinations, Rep. Rogers pulled a fast one, and rather than get hundreds of co-sponsors on his bill and pass it through the House and Senate, he attached the repatriation bill to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act as an amendment.

While hundreds of other amendments were also attached to the DAA, when it came down to the joint House-Senate Armed Services Committee sub-committee to hash out the details, LoBiondo sat on the committee, and when it got to the Tripoli Amendment, Rogers himself made an appearance and was given five minutes to make his case, which he effectively did.

Meanwhile, the Congressional liaison officers at the Pentagon were taken by surprise, and in an attempt to scuttle the amendment, had one of their biggest supporters in Congress – Sen. John McCain pull the amendment. McCain said he didn’t know what it was all about, and seemed to be just following orders.

Now it was Frank LoBiondo’s turn, and if the amendment was going to be pulled by McCain without giving adequate reason, he was going to replace it with an order to have a study conducted on the feasibility of repatriation of the Tripoli remains. That study was ordered in six months after the passage of the act, or by October, 2012. 

That study, recently released and posted at the Intrepid Project web site [see: ] reiterates all of the problems and objections to repatriation of the Tripoli remains, but does not address the most significant issue.

In the months since the ordering of the study, the success of the revolution not only changed the name of Green Square to Martyrs Square, but also led to the dissolution of the Libyan army and civil authority, so gangs of militias now controlled different neighborhoods. In addition, radical Islamic extremists, while only a small percentage of the total population, were armed and violent and desecrated the graves of British soldiers at Tobrok and robbed the graves of Sufi saints from their graves under the floors of Tripoli mosques. They also led an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including two former Navy SEALS and US Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Since the clearly marked graves of American Navy heroes in the cemetery, if these extremists knew were there, would be immediately targeted, the grave markers desecrated and the remains destroyed, its quite clear these remains are not safe.

The US State Department has recommended that the Old Protestant Cemetery be named a protected United Nations historical site, but similar sites, such as those in Syria, have been destroyed in the Civil War and turmoil sparked by the Arab Spring revolts, and the American graves in Tripoli are now threatened by the same forces. \

Who will get there first? Will American forensic archeologists retrieve the remains of these heroes, attempt to positively identify them and return them home for proper burial with full military honors – or will Arab extremists knock over the marked crypts and throw the remaining bones to the desert dogs?

It is only a matter of time before one or the other happens.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The DOD Report on the Tripoli Graves

The DOD Report on the Tripoli Graves 

As expected the DOD report on the Tripoli graves is against repatriation of the remains, mainly because the US military is unsure the remains are actually those of the Intrepid men, they want to use the cemetery to work with the Libyans and use the graves as a memorial site for those Americans visiting Tripoli. And they don’t want to go beyond the current policy of not repatriating the remains of Americans killed before World War I.

If they were combat fatalities in any other military engagement since World War I the families would have a say, but since they were killed over two hundred years ago, the military is not legally bound to return them. And the top brass do not want to break that policy even though they have done it on previous occasions. 

Regardless of the conclusions of this official report, the US military, specifically the Navy has an obligation to at least try to identify the remains of the Intrepid officers and if they can be positively identified, return them to their families.

Thanks to the Intrepid Project, an organization that represents the families of two of the Intrepid officers - Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth, for posting the DOD Report on the Tripoli graves as the DOD should have done.

The one and only question is whether this report addresses the threat to the graves posed by radical Islamic extremists who have robbed the remains from graves in Tripoli mosques, desecrated the of British graves at Trobuk and killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans in Benghazi? Does the report do mention that?

That's the only issue that matters today and Chipp Reid answers the question in his response to the DOD Report, :

“The DoD report makes no mention of the possibility of an anti-American government or fundamental Islamic government taking control of Libya. It makes no mention of the desecration of the Commonwealth Cemetery in Tobruk, a cemetery that holds the remains of British, Australian and New Zealand troops killed in action in Libya during World War II. Should an anti-American or anti-Western government come to power in Libya, there can be no guarantee of safety for these American graves in the heart of Tripoli. Indeed, it is safe to believe just the opposite would be true – that the same mob-mentality that led to the desecration of the Commonwealth cemetery, that the same terrorist cells that murdered the United States Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, would seek to destroy the graves of any American military in Libya, especially so since the United States Navy still regards Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth as heroes.”

But they don't need an anti-American or Islamic government to come to power in Tripoli since the current situation, with no law enforcement, makes the situation ripe for anyone to completely destroy the graves before the remains can be secured and put out of harm’s way.

Since current events have overtaken the report’s conclusions since the report does not mention the immediate and present danger to the remains, the threat to the graves must be addressed immediately.

There is a constant military guard standing over the graves of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, where one of the remains, at the request of a family of a soldier Missing in Action (MIA), was positively identified, removed and reburied separately in a marked grave and his remains replaced by those of a truly unknown soldier. The policy is to identify those who can be identified. 

There are no military guards or even a US flag flying over the cemetery in Tripoli, where the clearly marked graves of the Intrepid men are waiting to be desecrated.

The small walled cemetery near the harbor has been nominated by American state department officers to be given international historical status  s  UNESCO World Herit ge site, but that did not save similar sites that have become victims of the Arab Spring civil wars, like Aleppo, Syria Ancient City of Aleppo - UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

The Tripoli cemetery once contained the graves of over one hundred mainly Christians who served at the European embassies in Tripoli, but most of them, more than half, have been repatriated or reburied elsewhere. If the cemetery was not meant to be a permanent gravesite for anyone else, why should it be for the American Naval Heroes?

Most of the objections to repatriation raised in the report have been effectively answered, and the military should recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest, including the Navy, that these remains be rescued and returned home and if positively identified, given a proper burial with full military honors.

Just as Commodore Preble, Steven Decatur and the prisoners of the USS Philadelphia were honored on their return home from the Barbary Wars, the remains of John Paul Jones were retrieved from under a Paris street, and the men of the Henley were recovered, identified and reburied, it is now time for the men of the Intrepid to end their duty in Tripoli and return home to a the hero’s welcome and the proper burial they deserve.

At a time when the US military could use some good public relations, the return of the remains of these men can be conducted publicly with a formal repatriation ceremony held on the deck of the namesake USS Intrepid in New York Harbor and the men escorted  by veterans to their final and permanent  resting place. That ceremony would call attention to our longstanding mutual history with Libya, honor the men who have died in combat in every war, focus a spotlight on the men and women of the POW/MP Office who routinely repatriate the honored dead from their wayward graves abroad, and give veterans and the rank and file, especially those in special operations, something to be proud of being a part of.

Now is the time, after two hundred years, to bring the remains of the men of the Intrepid home. It’s a mission that can and should be done before it is too late. Just do it. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



The H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine, disappeared off the waters of Charleston, S.C., on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, after sinking the USS Housatonic. It was recovered over hundred years later, and the remains were positively identified and reburied at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on April 17, 2004.

THE HUNLEY crew was composed of Lieutenant George E. Dixon (Commander), Frank Collins, Joseph F. Ridgaway, James A. Wicks, Arnold Becker, Corporal C. F. Carlsen, C. Lumpkin, and Augstus Miller.

Apart from the commander of the submarine, Lieutenant George E. Dixon, the identities of the volunteer crewmen of the Hunley had long remained a mystery. Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist working for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, examined the remains and determined that four of the men were American born, while the four others were European born, based on the chemical signatures left on the men's teeth and bones by the predominant components of their diet.

Four of the men had eaten plenty of maize, an American diet, while the remainder ate mostly wheat and rye, a mainly European one. By examining Civil War records and conducting DNA testing with possible relatives, forensic genealogist Linda Abrams was able to identify the remains of Dixon and the three other Americans: Frank G. Collins of Fredericksburg, Va., Joseph Ridgaway, and James A. Wicks. Identifying the European crewmen has been more problematic, but was apparently solved in late 2004. The position of the remains indicated that the men died at their stations and were not trying to escape from the sinking submarine.

On April 17, 2004 the remains of the crew were laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. Tens of thousands of people attended including some 6,000 reenactors and 4,000 civilians wearing period clothing. Color guards from all five branches of the U.S. armed forces—wearing modern uniforms—were also in the procession. Even though only two of the crew were from Confederate States all were buried with full Confederate honors including being buried with a version of the Confederate national flag.

Another surprise occurred in 2002, when a researcher examining the area close to Lieutenant Dixon found a misshapen $20 gold piece, minted in 1860, with the inscription "Shiloh April 6, 1862 My life Preserver G. E. D." and a forensic anthropologist found a healed injury to Lt. Dixon's hip bone. The findings matched a legend, passed down in the family, that Dixon's sweetheart, Queenie Bennett, had given him the coin to protect him. Dixon had the coin with him at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was wounded in the thigh on April 6, 1862. The bullet struck the coin in his pocket, saving his leg and possibly his life. He had the gold coin engraved and carried it as a lucky charm.

From - Scientists Study The Last Men Who Served On The H.L. Hunley
By Nancy Jennis Olds April 2004

Several teeth, packed in a small narrow box surrounded in foam material, were laid in a neat row. Gold fillings gleamed like tiny percussion caps on the molars and an incisor. One filling was cast in a silver amalgam material.

This was not a dental office. It was Dr. Doug Owsley's office at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. We were peering at the teeth of Lt. George E. Dixon. He was commander of the H.L. Hunley, the Confederate submarine that disappeared off the waters of Charleston, S.C., on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, after sinking the USS Housatonic.

Owsley, the head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, worked with a team of scientists, including Department of the Army forensic genealogist Linda Abrams and medical examiner Dr. J.C. Upshaw Downs, the chief medical examiner for the state of Alabama and a former resident of Charleston.

Eight men were aboard the Hunley when it sank for the third and final time. Five of the crew drowned on Aug. 29, 1863, and all eight crew, including the sub's namesake and benefactor, Horace Lawson Hunley, were lost when the Hunley went down again on Oct. 15, 1863. Both times the Hunley was salvaged. After the third sinking it took 136 years before the sub was raised.

The information that Owsley and Abrams share about the third crew provides a fascinating look at the lives of these courageous men who crewed the first submarine to successfully attack and sink an enemy ship.

Every available space in Dr. Owsley's cramped offices is filled with cases of skulls and bones gathered over the years for research. In the midst of this vast collection Owsley moves around quickly. He is an amicable host who is constantly asked to lend his expertise when a skeleton is found. At the moment he is analyzing two young female skeletons discovered after wild animals had scattered the bones.

He was asked to examine the remains found in the sediment that filled the Hunley. The skeletons were well preserved, allowing Owsley a rare opportunity to thoroughly analyze the remains and provide some details about the crew.

Each set of remains, and any artifacts discovered near them, was meticulously cataloged. Owsley shared his notes on two of the crew, BB and AA.

The youngest member of the crew, identified by Dr. Owsley as BB because of his position inside the submarine, was a Caucasian male whose bone age was from 19 to 22 years and whose femur histology (tissue structure of the thighbone) was recorded to be 21.8 years. He was also the shortest crewmember. According to Owsley's findings, "He would have been the least cramped and had the greatest ease of movement within the submarine".

The young man's vertebrae showed some wear, a "strain induced deterioration of joint surfaces." Tobacco staining on the teeth indicated that he might have smoked cigars and chewed tobacco. No pipe facets that were related to pipe smoking were evident on the teeth. Further study of the skeletal remains showed the kind of bone growth and fusing of bone that confirmed his age.

The remains discovered in the AA section of the Hunley belonged to a Caucasian male whose bone age was between 24 to 25 years. The femur histology was 28 years. Dr. Owsley's notes reference the "medial epiphyses [ossification] of the clavicles [collarbone] are in the final stage of union and the hyoid [complex of bones at the base of the tongue] is intact with the wings fused to the body".

Owsley found evidence that AA had health problems. According to his records, the "nasal septum is markedly deviated to the right side. This degree of deformity would have impaired airflow through the right half of the nasal chamber."

This man's teeth were stained slightly from tobacco and there are no indications of pipe smoking. He had cavities and abscesses. Teeth near the abscesses were probably extracted. Six lower jaw teeth had a total of eight cavities.AA had five gold fillings and one filling made from a silver amalgam. The teeth had file marks in the enamel where the fillings were embedded. Different techniques in the manufacture and placement of the fillings could signify that more than one dentist repaired the teeth.

Upon further examination of the remains, Dr. Owsley discovered an injury that revealed the identity of the victim. Owsley's notes say: "This injury was caused by a gunshot wound to the upper thigh, which was primarily a soft tissue injury that caused only superficial damage to the bone. The bone did not fracture and there is no evidence of a serious infection."

A radiograph of the proximal half of the left femur revealed "lead spatter, small metallic particles." They were lead from a bullet and gold from a coin.

AA was Lt. George E. Dixon, of Co. E, 21st Alabama Volunteers, who had volunteered to command the H.L. Hunley. He had been wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. The location, date, his initials and the words, "My life preserver," were engraved on the $20 gold piece that deflected the bullet. He carried the coin with him and it was found in the Hunley sediment.

Linda Abrams identifies POW-MIA remains from the overseas recovery of casualties of World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and subsequent battles for all branches of the military. About three years ago, Dr. Robert Neyland, project manager for the recovery and excavation of the Hunley, invited Abrams to identify the remains of the Hunley's crew through researching military records and by analyzing the DNA.

Neyland was familiar with the POW-MIA office of the Pentagon. He needed someone with Abrams' solid track record. She has worked with more than 800 cases over 14 years and has identified all the remains.

Abrams says she decided to accept the challenge although she was unfamiliar with Confederate Civil War history. She wanted to approach this research in a way no one had done before.

She compared the investigation of the crews' remains and records to the investigation of a crime scene. Crime scenes are contained and evaluated before evidence can be tampered with. Witnesses are interviewed immediately after the incident before they can be influenced by media reports.

When Abrams began to research the Hunley crew, she found that the trail of information had been affected by preconceived theories that were not substantiated by hard evidence. Her research with the National Archives on Confederate military records was based on 3 by 5-inch index cards, all that was left of the original records which had been destroyed.

Full names were missing, places of enlistment weren't listed, although some military transfers were inscribed. It was incomplete information at best. Abrams went through 120 Confederate ship rosters. She spent hours searching for existing records obtained from various archives, probate courts, funeral homes and libraries throughout the country.

She says she encountered staffers at some institutions who were woefully ignorant about the Hunley crew's significance and were reluctant to give their support. She also found others who couldn't do enough for her. Abrams became acquainted with crew descendents who were unaware of their ancestor's place in history and were grateful to learn about it.

Historians were not entirely sure who the last crewmembers aboard the Hunley were.

Obtaining permission from families whose ancestors probably served aboard the Hunley to exhume a known relative's grave takes patience and persistence. Also, it is very vital that any DNA extracted this way must come from the maternal line of the family to be considered reliable.

The crew of the Hunley was comprised of soldiers and sailors who volunteered for the mission. Some of the crew was from Europe. At least two of the men were nearly or over 40 years old.

One was identified as James A. Wicks, married with two daughters. He had deserted the U.S. Navy by jumping ship from the USS Congress and swimming to shore. Shortly afterward, he enlisted in the Confederate Navy in Richmond.

An artilleryman, J.F. Carlsen, 20 to 23 years old and European, possibly Scandinavian, enlisted with Co. A, Light Artillery South Carolina Volunteers, also known as the German Artillery, before he volunteered to become the very last crewmember aboard the Hunley before its fateful voyage.

The man in charge, Lt. George E. Dixon, had been a riverboat engineer on the Mississippi. He had enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private and rose through the ranks quickly.

Abrams found records of two male friends of Dixon who had named their sons George. Dixon was described as handsome, "quite the fellow" from some sources. According to Abrams, "Dixon had the right stuff." She hopes to find more information on him. "He must have been an exceptional person," she says.

Abrams admits that the research and analysis required to identify the Hunley's last crew is more daunting than her work identifying the remains of contemporary POW-MIAs. She has faced their skulls almost pleading for them to "talk to me!"

Although the eight men will be laid to rest after 136 years submerged in the H.L. Hunley, the work in uncovering the secrets of their life and death will continue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Urgency on U.S. Remains in Libya

                                              Ambassador Stevens At the Tripoli Graves

After Ambassador Stevens' death, more urgency on U.S. remains in Libya
Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 5:51 AM

In Memorial Day ceremonies, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, stood silently next to the graves of American sailors in a tiny walled cemetery overlooking Tripoli harbor.

Flowers and small U.S. flags decorated aboveground stone crypts where the seamen were buried in the shade of olive trees.

More than 200 years ago, Navy Master Commandant Richard Somers and a dozen volunteer crewmen sailed an explosives-laden Intrepid toward anchored pirate ships in the harbor.

The Intrepid blew up before the mission's completion, killing all aboard. Somers, who was educated in Philadelphia, and fellow officers Henry Wadsworth and Joseph Israel and other crew members were recovered and buried.

Following Stevens' death Sept. 11 in an attack by Islamist militants on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the recent desecration of the graves of dozens of British Commonwealth soldiers at Tobruk, local efforts to repatriate the sailors have been redoubled.

Since the 1804 deaths, generations of the Somers family, along with state and federal legislators and officials, have worked, without success, to gain Libya's and the Navy's help to return the remains.

They've been joined by many others, including Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser; naval historian and author Chipp Reid, who wrote the just-released book Intrepid Sailors; and historian and author William E. Kelly Jr., who wrote a history of Somers Point called Three Hundred Years at the Point.

"I would like to see [the Intrepid's crew] shown some respect," said Michael Somers, 40, a Berlin resident and second cousin of Richard Somers seven times removed. "The soldiers of other wars are brought home."

"Why not these?" asked Somers, a paramedic who grew up at Somers Point. "With so much instability there, we don't know what will happen next and whether we will ever be able to reclaim them."

The remains "should be brought to Somers Point for burial," said Reid, who addressed members of the staffs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Friday on the proposed recovery. "This can't be that tough.

"Our fear is that their graves will be desecrated" like those of 35 World War II soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa who were buried at Tobruk, said Reid, 48, of Annapolis, Md.

The Old Protestant Cemetery, where the Intrepid crew is buried, "is small and its only security is a padlock on the front gate," he said.

The sailors "should be brought back quietly, quickly, and without fanfare," added Kelly, who sent a copy of his book and a letter detailing the proposed recovery effort to Stevens a week before his death.

Kelly believes five crew members are buried at the cemetery while eight others are under what is now a parking lot at Green Square, where the followers of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi once held demonstrations.

Commandant Somers, who is believed to be at the walled cemetery, was born in Somers Point, named after the naval hero's great-grandfather. Residents there hold a Richard Somers Day celebration every September.

"Maybe if we wait a week, the Islamists will go to the cemetery and it will be too late," said Kelly, 60, of Browns Mills. "We don't want to call too much attention to this because the graves could be desecrated."

Gadhafi's killing in October 2011 gave fresh impetus to the effort to bring the crew home. Maybe the country's new leadership would make the transfer easier if the Navy got on board with the project, supporters thought.

They were further encouraged by the passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the completion of a study to determine the feasibility of returning the remains.

That study, released this fall, focused on the problems of recovering the sailors, however, and did not recommend the project. It estimated the cost of recovery and identifying the remains to be about $770,000.

Proponents of the repatriation estimate it could be done for under $50,000.

Somers, Wadsworth, and Israel are believed to have separate coffins, each with markers that say, "Here lies an American sailor who gave his life in the explosion of the United States Ship Intrepid in Tripoli Harbour. . . . "

The rest of the remains were interred on the beach and later - when unearthed during a highway project - were moved to the walled graveyard, Reid said.

The walls were crumbling in recent years until restoration shortly before a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in December.

Kelly said Panetta and the secretary of the Navy do not appear "to have the time or inclination to deal with this issue at the moment, yet it is one that needs to be addressed and acted on as soon as possible."

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R, N.J.), who has supported the effort, met with Navy officials in recent months before the ambassador's death, but a spokesman said he has larger issues to deal with now. While he "is committed to bringing the fallen commandos home, current efforts are put on indefinite hold due to the situation on the ground in Libya," said the spokesman, Jason Galanes.

The recovery effort, though, continues to stir residents across Somers Point. Several of them work with groups to bring the sailors back to their community.

"We have selfish reasons," said Greg Sykora, 48. "We want to bring our son home. . . .
"These men are heroes," he said. "Why would you not want to repatriate them?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


                                   THE TRIPOLI GRAVES – EMERGENCY UPDATE

The Department of Defense study on the feasibility of repatriation of the remains of American Navy personnel in Tripoli, as ordered by the 2012 Defense Authorization Act,  was due in October, but has yet to be completed and released, most likely because of the assassination of the American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

[NOTE - The DOD study was completed and released in October 2012 and apparently did not recommend  repatriation, as expected, but has been intentionally kept from me. It would be greatly appreciated if anyone would supply me with a copy of this non-classified report.]

The September 11th murder of the Ambassador in Benghazi by radical Islamist and al Qaeda associates has been followed by the replacement of Gen. Ham at Africa Command, the relief of a fleet admiral at sea, the demotion of another general and resignation of the director of the CIA in a growing scandal in Washington that has put the military-intelligence administration in a state of turmoil.

The office of Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Navy do not have the time or inclination to deal with this issue at the moment, yet it is one that needs to be addressed and acted on as soon as possible.

Because the same radical Islamists who killed Ambassador Stevens have also desecrated the graves of British soldiers in Benghazi, attacked Mosques in Tripoli and made off with the remains of Sufi Saints and have threatened to do the same to American relics, it is imperative that the remains of the American sailors be exhumed and repatriated to safety as soon as possible.

While the exact location of the graves should be kept from those radical extremists who would damage them if they knew where they were, the cemetery walls will not deter someone committed to desecrating them.

The Secretary of Defense, with the agreement of the Secretary of the Navy and with the approval of the Libyan authorities, should order the POW/MP Office responsible for the repatriation of the remains of American servicemen abroad, to send a team to Tripoli to secure and retrieve the remains in the Intrepid graves at the cemetery. They should be taken to a military forensics lab to see if they can be positively identified as any of the officers or seamen of the Intrepid and then given a proper burial with full military honors.

The original purpose of maintaining the graves in Tripoli – to develop a working relationship with the Libyan government and secure the grave stones as a memorial, has been accomplished, the cemetery has been restored and its history documented. Now that the clearly identified graves of the Americans are seriously threatened by Islamic extremists, it is imperative that the remains in the crypts should be exhumed, examined, identified and properly reburied by Americans, rather than exhumed and desecrated by the radical Islamic extremists, if they haven’t done so already.


1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
CC: All interested parties.

November, 2012

To: Secretary of Defense
From: William E. Kelly, Jr.
Re: Disposition of Tripoli Graves

Dear Secretary of Defense Panetta,

As you have honored them yourself while visiting Tripoli, you are familiar with the graves of the men of the USS Intrepid at Old Protestant Cemetery. Thanks to the efforts of the American government and military in Tripoli, the previously neglected graves of these American heroes have been restored and can remain a memorial monument to America’s stake in the new Tripoli.

It is not secure however, and because of the desecration of the graves of British veterans in Benghazi, the assassination of the Ambassador Stevens and the theft of the remains of Sufi Muslim saints in Tripoli, there is a serious threat from radical fundamental Islamists who will desecrate and destroy the American graves if they could.

The officers and men of the Intrepid died for the same ideals that Ambassador Stevens and Americans soldiers and sailors fight and die for today, so they should be treated with the same honor and respect.

The Gadhafi government and former US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz had previously reached an agreement to permit the exhumation and repatriation of these remains and the new government should not oppose the move today. So with their approval, the POW/MP Office should be ordered to take the necessary measures to quietly exhume the remains of all Americans from the graves at Old Protestant Cemetery and deliver them to an official US military forensic laboratory to determine if they can be positively identified as any of the officers and men of the Intrepid. They should then properly reburied with full military honors. This is a mission that the POW/MP Office can and should be able to do quickly, secretly and efficiently.

At a time when America is under attack and the US military could use some positive public relations, the emergency repatriation of the American heroes from Tripoli and their reburial at home with full military honors will shine a brief but positive spotlight on America and the US military, refresh memories of our mutual history with Libya, and reaffirm our commitment to the ideals Americans die for in foreign lands.
William E. Kelly, Jr.
20 Columbine Ave.
Browns Mills, NJ 08015
(609) 425-6297

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Return Them Home Now

                           Violence in Libya Renews Call for Repatriation of Somers from Tripoli

By William Kelly

The September 11th assassination of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans has added a new urgency to the repatriation of the remains of Richard Somers and the men of the U.S.S. Intrepid from Tripoli.

“The senseless murder of Ambassador Stevens is a tragic loss for our nation,” said Sally Hastings, president of the Somers Point Historical Socity. “It also proves that neither the Navy nor the State Department can ensure the safety of American interests in Libya. It is vital that we recover the remains of the 13 heroes that died on the Intrepid and return them to the United States where they can finally receive the honors they deserve.”

Unlike other seemingly spontaneous protests at American embassies around the world, in response to the release of a movie insulting to Islamsts, the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi appears to have been planned in advance and carried out by hundreds of heavily armed militants.

Shortly after the February 17th Revolution in Libya began, Chris Stevens was sent to Benghazi to evaluate the revolutionaries, determine who they were, what they were fighting for and why. His reports played a major role in the change in US policy of backing foreign dictators who support American economic, anti-Communist and counter-terrorist policies. The American support for the revolutionaries, along with the imposition of a NATO enforced no-fly zone over Libya, contributed greatly to the success of the revolution over the four decades long rule of Dictator Mommar Gadhafi. 

Stevens was respected and trusted by the many diverse elements of Libyan society, and was appointed ambassador in March, 2012. On Memorial Day, Stevens led the American delegation in a ceremony at the graves of the men of the USS Intrepid at Old Protestant Cemetery in Tripoli.

[See Photo]

Richard Somers commanded the captured pirate ship rechristened USS Intrepid on one of the first special operation raids in US Naval history on the night of September 4, 1804, intending to destroy the anchored enemy fleet in Tripoli harbor. The ship exploded before it could reach its destination and the bodies of the men were recovered on the shore and buried nearby. 

The Somers’ family, beginning with his sister Sarah, has always sought the return of the remains of Richard from Tripoli, and they have been joined by the family of Lt. Henry Wadsworth, Somers’ second in command and uncle of Longfellow the famed New England poet. With the backing of the citizens of Somers Point, and the endorsement of the New Jersey State Legislature, the House of Representatives and Veterans groups like the American Legion, VFW and Am Vets, an amendment to repatriate the remains was attached to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act. But that amendment was withdrawn by Sen. John McCain at the request of the Navy. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R. NJ 2nd), a strong supporter of repatriation, and whose district includes Somers Point, reinserted an order to have the military study the feasibility of repatriation, a report that is due in October.

Regardless of what that study concludes, those seeking repatriation have stepped up their efforts and consider this an emergency situation.

“If we don’t get them out now, while we can, who knows what will happen to them? If the Islamic extremists get to them first, we will never get them back,” said Walt Gregory, who is helping to raise money to build a monument to Somers that they hope, will also be a gravestone if his remains are returned.

Of the many diverse groups in Libya, the radical Islamics known as Salafists are orthodox Muslims who believe in a strict interpretation of the Koran, and are often at violent odds with other Islamic sects, especially the Sufis, who sing, dance and revere their honored Sufi saints. Shortly after the ouster of Gadhafi, some Sal fists intimidated a Libyan Jew who was trying to restore an ancient and abandoned Tripoli Synagogue. They also attacked some Sufi mosques, excavated the graves and made off with the remains of some Sufi saints that had been buried in the floor of the mosque for over a hundred years.

More recently some Salafists bulldozed a Sufi mosque in Tripoli, completely pulverizing it, without any objections from the ruling interim government, who consider it a religious affair.

These same Salafists Moslems are leading the protests against American embassies and businesses in the Middle East and Asia, and it is believed by intelligence analysts that these protests were used as a cover for the attack on the US consulates in Benghazi and Tripoli by Al Qada and Taliban forces. These Taliban, who practice a strict form of Salafist Islam, were responsible for the destruction of two centuries old Budda statutes in Afghanistan, because they insulted their Islamic sensibilities, and desecrated the graves of British soldiers who died during World War II and are buried in Libya.

These same radical Islamists would certainly attack, desecrate and remove the remains of the American naval heroes buried in Tripoli if they knew where they were, as the graves are clearly marked as Americans from the USS Intrepid.
Hastings also said she fears the cemetery in which the American remains lie could suffer the same type of desecration as the Commonwealth Cemetery near Tobruk, Libya. A mob destroyed numerous graves of soldiers who died in battle in World War II and ripped up Australian, British and New Zealand flags when it attacked the cemetery earlier this year.
“It is of the utmost importance that we don’t allow the graves of our sailors and ancestors to suffer the fate of those brave Australian soldiers,” Hastings said. “It is past the time for own government not only to recognize the heroic sacrifice of the crew of the first USS Intrepid but to finally heed the calls of the descendants of these men for their return.”

The part of the 2012 Defense Authorization Act that refers to the repatriation of Somers and the men of the Intrepid refers to “the proposal to exhume, identify, and relocate the remains of the American sailors.” It concerns the “Evaluation of Issues Affecting Disposition of remains of American Sailors Killed in the Explosion of the Ketch USS INTREPID in Tripoli Harbor on September 4, 1804,” and requires a report to be conducted by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy and issued by October.

The Secretary of Defense – Leon Panetta, and the Secretary of the Navy – Raymond Edwin “Ray” Malbus, Jr., “shall conduct an evaluation of the following issues: The feasibility of recovery of remains based on historical information, factual consideration, costs, and precedential effect; the ability to make identifications of the remains within a two-year period based on conditions and facts that would have to exist for positive scientific identification of the remains; and the diplomatic and inter-governmental issues that would have to be addressed in order to provide for exhuming and removing the remains consistent with the sovereignty of the Libyan Government.”

“We were told that the cemetery where they are buried has a wall around it and is safe and secure,” said Walt Gregory, “but if they can kill the US Ambassador then we know that they are not safe and secure.”

“It’s our concern that they are buried in a very volatile place in the world,” said Mayor Glasser. “Libya is a very dangerous place at the moment, and not friendly to Americans. We’ll not give up until they are back home safe.”

Donations for the Somers Monument can be made to the Somers Point Historical Society and sent to P.O. Box 517, Somers Point, N.J. 08244 or at their web site: .
For more information see:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chris Stevens - American Hero of the Libyan Revolution

                               Chris Stevens – American Warrior Diplomat & Libyan Martyr

By William Kelly

Since they died for the same principles – freedom, liberty and justice, the names of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods should be added to the Tripoli Monument at Annapolis, America’s first war memorial dedicated to the US Navy officers who died during the first war against the Barbary Pirates.

Stevens - the American hero of the Libyan Revolution, was a Peace Corp veteran and a dedicated diplomat who was sent into Benghazi to size up the revolutionary forces.

Arriving in the hold of a cargo ship, he met with all of the rebels, and breaking with the long held policy of backing dictators who support US economic, anti-communist and counter-terrorist policies, Stevens came down squarely on the side of the revolutionaries. He helped begin the political process that led to the US-NATO intervention, the establishment of the no-fly zone and saving the city of Benghazi from total destruction, as Gadhafi had done to other Libyan cities.

While most critics, mainly on the liberal left, decried the support of the rebels as an extension of the American war program as exercised in Iraq and Afghanistan, Stevens saw it in its proper historical context – the fight for liberty and freedom that went back over 200 years.

With the success of the revolution, Stevens was named the new US Ambassador to Libya, and was recognized as a true friend of the new Libya. One of the first public events Stevens did as ambassador was a Memorial Day 2012 ceremony at the graves of the American sailors from the USS Intrepid.

               US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens at the graves of the men of the Intrepid in Tripoli

The USS Intrepid, a captured pirate ship, was used in a number of daring commando raids, that preceded the establishment of such special operations units like the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS. One mission on the Intrepid sank the captured frigate USS Philadelpha in Tripoli harbor. Then the Intrepid was converted into a fireship and sailed into Tripoli harbor at night with the intention of destroying the anchored pirate fleet. Instead the ship blew up prematurely and killed all thirteen men, including the commander, Lt. Richard Somers. Their remains were recovered and buried just off the beach near the old castle fort at Martyr’s Square, the epicenter of the Libyan revolution.

The only real martyrs buried at Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square are US Navy heroes killed fighting tyranny over two hundred years ago.

Although these men were killed in action during the battle immortalized in the US Marine hymn, “to the shores of Tripoli,” Stevens felt a personal affiliation with them, and in a sense, helped complete their mission.

The situation in 1804 was not that much different than it is today, as pirates were marauding American merchant ships off Africa and enslaving and ransoming their passengers and crew.  When tribute payments stopped, Yousef Karamanli, the chief pirate and tyrant of Tripoli, declared war against the United States by chopping down the flag pole outside home of the US counsel.

With the slogan of “Millions for defense but not once cent for tribute,” Americans decided to build a navy and fight the pirate, rather than pay the tributes and ransoms. Commodore Edward Preble led the American fleet in a blockade of Tripoli harbor, while William Eaton, the US Counsel to Egypt, convinced Hamid Karamanli, the deposed brother of the tyrant, to reclaim his kingdom. With Sergeant Presley O’Bannon and a squad of eight US Marines, a few hundred Greek Christians mercenaries and a cavalry of Bedouin tribesmen, the motley army marched across the desert and captured the eastern port city of Derna, much like Lawrence of Arabia captured Akaba. 

                                      William Eaton - American Warrior - Diplomat - 1805

After repelling a loyalist counterattack, Eaton, Hamid Karamanli, O’Bannon and their makeshift army, similar in their diversity to the 2012 revolutionaries, prepared to march on Tripoli. But before they did, another US diplomat, Tobias Lear accepted a peace treaty with Yousef Karamanli, paying him $60,000 ransom for the 300 US Navy prisoners from the captured frigate USS Philadelphia.

Paying the ransom was not only against the declared US policy, it also left Yousef Karamanli in power. When they learned of the treaty, Eaton, Karamanli, O’Bannon and the marines had to sneak out of Derna at night by boat and abandoned their army, much like the Cubans were abandoned at the Bay of Pigs. But in appreciation for fighting with him, Hamid Karamanli gave Sgt. Presley O’Bannon his Mamaluke sword, which was adopted as the official dress sword of the U.S. Marines.

Over a hundred and fifty years later, in 1949, present at an official ceremony at the graves of the men of the USS Intrepid, was Youself Karamanli, the mayor of Tripoli, namesake  and direct descendent of the tyrant who was the first to declare war against the United States.

From 1949 until Gadhafi seized power in 1969 the Tripoli graves of the men of the Intrepid were maintained by the Officer’s Wives Club of Wheelus Air Force. It wasn’t until Gadhafi renounced terrorism, paid off the victims of the Lockerbie bombing and turned over his weapons of mass destruction that US diplomats returned to Tripoli. And one of the first things they did was to conduct a ceremony at the graves of the Intrepid sailors and convince the Gadhafi government to restore the historic Old Protestant Cemetery.

In the meantime, the family of the Intrepid’s commander  Lt. Richard Somers of Somers Point, New Jersey petitioned the US Navy to repatriate the remains of Somers and his men, an effort that was joined by the family of the Intrepid’s second in command, Lt. Henry Wadsworth, uncle of Longfellow. Their efforts led to the inclusion of an article in the 2012 Defense Appropriation Act requiring the military conduct a feasibility study of repatriation of the remains of these men, a study that is due soon.

Shortly after the restoration of the cemetery, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Tripoli and stopped by the Intrepid graves to pay his respects to the American heroes buried there.

Then after the Arab Spring revolutions began in Tunisa and forced the outster of a number of dictators, the Gadhafi government arrested a Benghazi lawyer who represented over one thousand families of political prisoners Gadhafi had executed in one day. On February 17, 2010, less than one hundred, mostly women protested the arrest of their lawyer in Benghazi, a protest that, while it led to the release of the attorney, was joined by others, and the Libyan revolution was on.

While the US government officially supported Tunisia’s Ali, Mubarak of Egypt and Gadhafi, as they had agreed to support US economic and counter-terrorism policies, Chris Stevens was sent in to evaluate the rebels and find out who they were and what they represented. His reports greatly influenced US policy makers, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,and the decision was made to forgo support for Gadhafi and back the rebels instead. It was a decision made at the same time Gadhafi’s military forces were about to level Benghazi, as they had other rebellious towns and cities.

This change in US policy, from support of friendly dictators to backing the democratic revolution to overthrow them, is a major change in American policy, and one that should be upheld in other countries controlled by dictators.

Stevens didn’t give his life for NATO, the UN or the Arab League, he died for the freedom, liberty and justice for the Libyan people – the same reasons that Richard Somers and the men of the Intrepid died, fighting the tyranny of Yousef Karamanli.

In recognition of the fact that Americans fight today for the same reasons that they fought for two hundred years ago, freedom – liberty – justice and democracy - the names of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods should be added to the names of those American heroes that are inscribed on the Tripoli monument, and the remains of the Naval heroes who are still buried in Tripoli should be repatriated home and buried in a safe and secure location where radical Islamic terrorist can’t desecrate their graves.

                                                       The Tripoli Monument - Annapolis