Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tripoli Navy Sailors: Time to Bring Them Home

Tripoli Navy Sailors: Time to bring them home
Military Matters
By Leeanna M. Rossi
Posted:   03/26/2013 11:42:16 PM MDT

Tripoli Navy Sailors: Time to bring them home Military Matters

 Imagine a military encounter where a U.S. naval vessel was blown to pieces off the coast of a hostile foreign nation and all hands on-board were killed. The next morning their bodies washed up on shore and their remains were dragged through the streets and ultimately fed to wild dogs.

Whatever remained of their bodies was gathered up and dumped in a mass grave to be forgotten for the rest of time. Sounds like a terrible event that could have taken place in the past couple of years but subtract about 200 years or so and you'll be pretty close.

The date was September 4, 1804, off the coast of Libya, in the harbor of Tripoli. The ship was the U.S.S. Intrepid, crewed by 13 navy sailors. The ship was packed with munitions and commanded by Master Commandant Richard Somers and his executive officer, Lt. Henry Wadsworth (uncle of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). While the origin of the explosion remains unknown, naval officials believe the crew anticipated that the Tripolines were about to take over the ship so the crew rigged the ship to explode. Preferring death to capture, the brave crew members ultimately blew up their own ship and sacrificed their lives.

After the bodies were discovered and partially devoured by a pack of stray dogs, U.S. Naval prisoners in Libya requested and were granted the ability to bury Somers and his men in a mass grave in Tripoli. Somers and his crewmembers have remained in Tripoli ever since.

In an effort to honor the members of the U.S.S. Intrepid, Somers' ancestors named a town after him: Somers Point, New Jersey. Additionally, six U.S. Navy ships have been named for Somers and a monument honoring him and his crew stands at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Records from the Somers Point Historical Society and Museum seem to indicate that the Somers' family tried to reclaim his remains in the early 1800's, but the effort failed. Some 200 years later, a U.S. House bill was passed calling for the repatriation of the Intrepid's crew from Libya and efforts continue to be made to reunite these service members with their country and their families.

The real energy behind this repatriation is the Somers Point Historical Society and the American Legion. In fact, plans have already been made for a monument and burial plot in Somers Point for Richard Somers' return.

"Any service member killed in the line of duty deserves to come home," says Barry Searle, Director of the American Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division. "First, it is important for family members to have their loved ones properly buried in an environment that isn't hostile. But bringing Somers and his men back home is also a matter of national honor and trust."

To watch a mini-documentary about the Intrepid, go to www.
If you wish to support efforts to repatriate the remains of Somers and the Intrepid crew, go to www.the
Finally, if you want to read more about Somers and the Intrepid's mission, go to
Somers Point Historical Socity
Leeanna M. Rossi, U.S. Navy veteran and member of the American Legion, Post 4, in Deming, NM.

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