Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Intrepid Story from an Arab Perspective

- This is an English Translation of the Arabic text of the Libyan book “Secrets of Old Protestant Cemetery” – marked as the grave site of men from the USS Intrepid, that exploded in Tripoli Harbor in September 1804. Many thanks to Asmae, a Moroccan widow of an American serviceman, who is enamored with the story and thinks it should be made into a movie. 

Editors Note: this is a work in progress and subject to corrections and revisions. - BK

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BEGIN TRANSLATION:: Secrets of Old Protestant Cemetery - Tripoli 

A lot of sources speak about the political crisis between the United States and Tripoli leaders since the diplomatic relations between them has ceased on 05/14/1801, on the era of Yousef, the fifth president of Karmadian dynasty in Libya and the third president of United States Thomas Jefferson.

One of these crises seasons was on 10/31/1803 when the Libyan Marine surrounded the entire American Naval Unit and captured the captain of the ship, the officers, and the crew members without causing any harm to any member of the unit. That was the capture of Philadelphia, the biggest American catastrophe after Pearl Harbor of the World War Two.

On 12/23/1803 and as a massive retaliation, the American Naval succeeded to capture one of the Lybian ships, Mastico, using the Enterprise, one of the American schooners. The Mastico was under the command of captain Mustapha who was the first one that jumped on Philadelphia upon its capture by The Libyans. After captain Mustapha and his crew members were captured by the Americans, the Mastico became one of the American Naval Corp that Brigadier Edward Preble named the Intrepid.

Its name was small then but nobody would believe that Preble didn't only participate to protect the reputation of the American Navy but their entire history and honor.

However, it was no way to save Philadelphia from its capture in Tripoli. Instead the commander of the American Unit sent an order to burn the ship down when it settled down in the port of Tripoli.

The reason why the Enterprise (Sic Intreid) was chosen for this mission is because of its friendly looking design. When the Enterprise (Sic Intreid) enters the port of Tripoli at night everybody would think that it just a friendly commercial ship that was trying to lay in the port for commercial reasons. 

That was on 02/16/1804 under the command of Captain Stephen Decatur. The mission was a success that only one man was lightly wounded. As a result of this victory Decatur was immediately promoted to a naval commander and he was only 25 years old. This even made Tripoli witnessing the promotion of the youngest commander in the hall American Naval Corp.

After six months and half of trying to surround the city of Tripoli didn't succeeded, Preble the captain of the American Navy Troops went for his plan to destroy the rest of the Libyan Naval ships and one or more of its ports in one strike. He decided to send a marine bomb to the port to destroy it.

The truth is that wasn't his idea, it was the idea of a man who used to live in the Red Castle in Tripoli and close to its main port.  His name was Brigadier William Bainbridge. He was the prisoner of Tripoli governor. The governor kept Bainbridge in an abandoned American Embassy building that was close to the port. That's how he got his best chance to see some details that were never mentioned in the American Navy maps.

He also earned the trust of Nicolasi Nissen, the ambassador of Denmark, and he used this trust to escape a number of secret letters to the American Navy Units that surrounded the port. The letters were common and innocents letters that were written with common ink but underlined with secrets letters that were written with Lemon juice and you can only read them if you light matches underneath the paper.

One of those letters was sent to captain Preble, in person, advising the need of sending a fighter ship to the port. And the volunteer unit that would sale in the ship had to flee in small boat just before they set the explosion. The truth is Preble tried this type of strategy of strikes in the past. That was when a group of volunteers under the leadership of Stephen Decatur sneaked to the port then to Philadelphia and burned it down.  As a result it been discovered that The Interbred (the ship that was used for this mission) was the perfect ship for the mission because it matches the Libyans ships and makes them believe that it was one of theirs, especially at night time.

After the burning of Philadelphia the Intrepid was used as the first American Naval hospital that is settled on the water.

After Preble’s decision, Nautilus captain of the schooner, and lieutenant colonel Richard Somers turned the Naval hospital to a floating bomb. As soon as they got their orders they started to prepare for this mission that took a few days with the help of Master Henry Wadsworth and master sergeant Joseph Israel.

They put 100 Barrels continued approximately 700 kilograms of explosives in the cabin storage. On the top of this deadly load they place 100 of 9 and13 inch guns loaded and provided with filament and are ready to work. Then they extended a tub from the front storage to the rear cabin that it also was allied with explosives that suppose to burn for 15 minutes; enough for the crew to get away from the ship.

Israel and Wadsworth picked the fastest boat in the naval unit to use it to come back after they deliver the ship of hell to its destination into the port. The crew was supposed to light the flame and start the burning from the back of the ship that would burn the gunpowder line that would connect the fire with the front compartment in 15 minutes when everybody should get away from the ship.

When Nautilus men knew that their captain was in charge of the mission they ask to accompany him but he only picked four men, Thomas Topline, James Harris, William Keith, and James Simms. In the other hand, Henry Wadsworth choose six of his  men, William Harrison, Robert Clark, Hugh McCormick, Jacob Williams, Peter Penner and Isaak Downes.

End of Part I – Part II of relevant chapters currently being translated. Many thanks to Asmae for her patient diligence – BK