WASHINGTON – For more than 200 years, the remains of 13 U.S. sailors have been interred in Tripoli, and now a congressman is calling on the Defense Department to bring them home.
The USS Intrepid exploded and sank in 1804 while on a mission during the First Barbary War to destroy the Tripolitan Fleet. The captain and 12 volunteer officers were killed.
When their bodies washed ashore, they were fed to dogs, dragged through the streets and dumped into holes, said U.S. Rep Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
Rogers said it is only a matter of time before Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is deposed, so it is important to get ready to work with a new Libyan government to bring the Intrepi’ crew back to the United States. He has been working on this since he saw some of their graves during a visit to Libya in 2004.
“One of the places there is right by the square where they regularly protest the United States of America – hardly a place that you would like to call your final resting place when you’ve sacrificed so much for your country,” said Rogers, an Army veteran.
After feeling the Navy was unwilling to pursue the issue, Rogers introduced a bill earlier this month that would require the Defense Department to exhume the sailors and bury them in the United States. The bill, which is still in committee, requires those remains that could not be identified to be transferred to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“If it’s one day, if’s one hour, if it’s 100 years, we have the obligation and the responsibility —and I argue the dignity and the honor –to say that we will leave no fallen member of our military behind,” Rogers said. “I look it this way: If that were me, I’d want someone to try to bring me home.”
For more information, go to "The Intrepid Project."