Thursday, December 01, 2011

11 U.S. sailors buried in Libya will stay there, for now

Washington Post National

Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 12/01/2011

U.S. sailors buried in Libya will stay there, for now
The plan is kept out of a Senate bill, and the Navy says the bodies of the Maine officer and other Intrepid sailors belong in Tripoli.

By Jason Ukman

The remains of 13 American sailors buried in the Libyan capital of Tripoli for more than 200 years may be there for a little bit longer. The sailors were the casualties of a mission to destroy a once-thriving pirate fleet, and their descendants have sought for years to repatriate the remains. Their efforts have been alternately blocked by the Gaddafi government and resisted by defense officials. This week, three months after the ouster of the Gaddafi government, the Senate was on the brink of passing legislation that would have required the Pentagon to seek the return of the remains. But the provision now appears to be on hold. As a result, the repatriation of the officers and crew of the USS Intrepid might not happen any time soon. The story of the USS Intrepid is part of the history of what's known as the First Barbary War. In 1804, the 13 sailors aboard the USS Intrepid were dispatched with explosives to blow up the Tripoli harbor. The city's ruler had been using it as a base for pirate ships that were pillaging American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean, and the covert mission was a last-ditch effort to put an end to the practice.

The Americans' vessel, however, exploded prematurely -- it's unclear exactly why -- killing all on board. (Read more on the story of the Intrepid here.)

The Navy has respectfully declined to retrieve the remains, saying it believes Libya to be the "final resting place" of the sailors and noting that it is custom to honor the burial grounds of those lost in ships and downed aircraft. There was a formal memorial ceremony held in honor of the sailors and crew in Tripoli in 1949.

"Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert considers the Tripoli Protestant cemetery to be the final resting place of the Intrepid sailors who sacrificed their lives for our nation," Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement this week, echoing the stance of Greenert's predecessor, Adm. Gary Roughhead.

Those behind the grassroots effort at repatriation, however, say the Tripoli cemetery is hardly Normandy.

The sailors "are not honored there," Michael Caputo, the coordinator for the Intrepid Project, the group that has pressed to have the remains brought back. "They're stashed there."


Sean P Eagan

Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans
Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars
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