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.