By Leeanna M. Rossi
Imagine a military encounter where a
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
4, 1804, off the coast of ,
in the Libya .
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. harbor of Tripoli
After the bodies were discovered and partially devoured by a pack of stray dogs, U.S. Naval prisoners in
requested and were granted the ability to bury Somers and his men in a mass grave
in Libya . Somers and his
crewmembers have remained in Tripoli
ever since. Tripoli
In an effort to honor the members of the U.S.S. Intrepid, Somers' ancestors named a town after him:
. 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. Somers Point,
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
and efforts continue to be made to reunite these service members with their
country and their families. Libya
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. legion.org/legiontv.
If you wish to support efforts to repatriate the remains of Somers and the Intrepid crew, go to www.the intrepid13.org.
Finally, if you want to read more about Somers and the Intrepid's mission, go to www.intrepidproject.org.
Somers Point Historical Socity
Leeanna M. Rossi, U.S. Navy veteran and member of the American Legion, Post 4, in