Why did the Navy Commander leading the POW-MP office contact families of the USS Intrepid in mocking emails yet never identify herself?
Below are two emails sent by US Navy Commander Renee Richardson, head
of the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel office
- the operation in charge of repatriating the remains of US military
combat fatalities - to the family of Master Commandant Richard Somers.
In the first email (2008), she never identified herself as being in
the Navy. In the second email (2011), Richardson admitted she was in
the Navy but never identified herself as head of the Department of
Defense POW-MP office. She also got downright insulting to the
As one of the Navy's foremost experts on repatriation, Richardson
provides briefings on repatriation to superior officers and is a
primary resource informing the Navy's opposition to the Intrepid
repatriation. The emails she sent to the Intrepid families exhibit
that she is ill informed and incorrect - a reflection of the Navy's
lack of interest and contemporary information on the topic of the
heroes of the USS Intrepid.
--- EMAIL2 - 22JUN11 ---
From: "Renee Richardson"
---EMAIL1 - 7SEP08 ---
To: XXX, XXX
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 1:39:37 PM
Subject: Cost of HR 1479
Dear Mr. Gregory, Ms. Hastings and Mayor Glasser,
I watched with wonder as HR 1497 was approved. I am sure that all of you are very pleased. The information that abounds on the various websites dedicated to the mission of repatriation for the crew of INTREPID (lost 4 September 1804) is mostly right, but not completely. On your own site you should ask Mr. Kelly to properly annotate the chronology for the events below (taken from your site and presumably taken from his blog or his book):
"After decisively defeating the enemy in a number of skirmishes, Decatur sailed the Intripid [sic] into the harbor disguised as an Arab trader. He recaptured and sank the Philadelphia without firing a shot and without any casualties. Then Somers, with a dozen volunteers, reentered the harbor, having filled the Intripid [sic] with combustibles. Unfortunately, during the daring nighttime raid the Intrepid prematurely exploded in the harbor. The bodies of Somers and his crew washed ashore the following day and were buried in a nearby cemetery by prisoners from the Philadelphia. An unkempt memorial marks their graves."
First this chronology suggests that the action taken by Decatur and that of Somers was within a similar time period. Decatur burned the frigate U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA in February of 1804, Somers failed fire-ship mission took place on September 4, 1804. Second the bodies were not buried in "a nearby cemetery." Rather after being exposed todogs, the elements and the ire of Tripoli's residents, Bashaw Yusuf Karamanli allowed the bodies to be buried in a communal grave area by some enlisted from PHILADELPHIA along with the Ship's Surgeon, Dr. Cowley; all of whom were the Bashaw's hostages.
Nowhere on the miscellaneous sites dedicated to this cause does anyone annotate the fact that in the 1790s and the 1800s the captive European slave population in Tripoli of people taken from pirated ships, was at a minimum (the ones whose names were officially recorded) 600 people. Most of them (unlike the surviving crewmembers from PHILADELPHIA), where never ransomed or returned to their native lands, rather they were worked to death and buried in the same communally designated area as the sailors from INTREPID.
Additionally the remains uncovered during construction by the Italian road crew in the 1930's were not readily or properly identified as being Americans or from INTREPID. There is no evidence (except the political expediency of post WWII Relations) to suggest that the remains were not merely those of other unfortunate wretches who died in Tripoli. The only anecdotally evidence we have is from 1949, when it was in the best interest of the government of Tripoli to cement relations with the U.S., and suddenly those five unmarked graves are alleged to contain the remains of American sailors from INTREPID. Thus on April 2, 1949 during a ship visit by U.S.S. SPOKANE a memorial service was performed, a plaque erected and the graves marked as being those of sailors from INTREPID. The ceremony was attended by the Commanding Officer of SPOKANE, Captain William Marshall; Rear Admiral Cruzen, Commander Cruiser Division Two; Mr. Orray Taff, U.S. Consul at Tripoli, and Prince Taher Bey Karamanli of Libya. But at the end of the day there is no definitive evidence that suggests that the five graves contain any remains of Americans, let alone remains from the dead of INTREPID.
But let us for the moment set all that aside and leap into the presumption that in fact the graves contain at least some of five of INTREPID's thirteen dead. And let us imagine that HR 1497 passes and DoD (because the Navy has regularly and wisely said "nay" to exhumation) is forced to repatriate the remains in those five graves--and no doubt sundry other remains outside Tripoli's original walls just for good measure--do you anticipate that these remains should jump to the front of the line?
Perhaps you did not realize there is a line and that the DoD organizations responsible for recovery and accounting of the Missing-in-Action already have a massive load to deal with. The dead of INTREPID, just for clarification are not MIA, they are buried andaccounted for. And by the way the MIA that are currently being looked for (WWII to Date) still have family members who were ALIVE when their loved one went missing. I did not see any additional funding or resources attached to HR 1497, which means the Bill, if passed, selfishly takes limited resources from modern losses. For WWII there over 73,000 missing in action, for Korea there are nearly 8000, Southeast Asia still has about 1,700 missing and there are some 125 from the cold war.
Not only is the endeavor of this bill selfish in the theft of resources (because it is political and noisy) from extant missions for families who still remember the missing (not as a historic footnote of family lore--but fremembered fathers and husbands and brothers and sons ) but it is potentially also a precedent setting bill that opens liability and government obligation for repatriation from 1804 forward: the First and Second Seminole Wars, the War of 1812, The Mexican-American War, The Civil War, The Spanish-American War, including losses in Cuba and the Philippines, The Philippine-American War, The Boxer Rebellion, the Great War (WWI) and the Banana Wars.
I do not dispute the desire of the descendants (217 years removed) to return their beloved. I dispute that our government (except in assisting permissions and access) is in anyway responsible, or obligated to repatriate these 13 sailors from a failed mission, who are accounted for and buried, not missing. If ten years ago, when Mr. Kelly first started his agitation for their return, all of you had formed a 501 C 3 Not-for Profit, not only would you have already raised enough money to have brought them back, and paid for the DNA testing and Family Reference Samples and genealogy to find all the living relatives, but there would likely have been enough left over to be providing Master Commander Somers' scholarships to all the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandsons-daughters-neices-nephews. BUT, more importantly you would not now be detracting from the real POW/MIA mission.
As a commissioned Navy officer from a Navy family (Grandfather, father, husband, father-in-law and son) I find it repugnant that this measure should take away from the current MIA/POW recovery missions, whether all of you intended it or not, that will be the consequence.
Respectfully in disagreement over this measure,
Questions on Repatriation of Intrepid Crew
TO: William Kelly [Intrepid Project]
I recently came upon your site concerning the "Intrepid". Having just finished "Six Frigates", "Jefferson's War" and "The Pirate Coast" I was looking about on the internet for additional information, what a very interesting bit of history.
I am curious about the repatriation however, as the responsibility for repatriation prior to WW II usually seems to fall to the Service, unless the individual(s) have already been interred--in which case the Service will decline the request (as the mariners have been interred, it is likely the Navy should and will say "no". Additionally the Navy/Libyans had a dedication ceremony in 1949 indicating the Service considers Tripoli to be the final resting place of these brave souls). Or the cost of repatriation falls to the individual family(ies) of the deceased.
1) That being the case who would bear the cost of this repatriation?
2) Assuming the US Government/Service might choose to absorb the cost, why should these remains (which are properly buried) receive a priority of exhumation/transportation over the 80,000 plus remains around the world awaiting excavation, and identification from WW II, Korea, the Cold War and the Southeast Asia conflict? The families of the "Intrepid" crew, know exactly what happened, they blew up, and they were buried. We even know where some/most/all are buried "Tripoli" in the Protestant Cemetery, along with several Italians and Dutch. That is not the case with so many of the lost from WW II, Korea and Southeast Asia, while the team at Dover is no doubt very good as you put it, they are a limited and costly resource that is engaged in the work to identify and repatriate those who had no real resting place, no grave, no identity even of the remains--and living immediate or at the least first and second generation family members awaiting disposition.
3) Do all 13 families desire the disinterment of the comingled graves?
4) If not, is the encouragement of that disinterment not potentially repugnant to present-day descendants of the deceased and should their wishes not also be respected? As a mother, I for one would not desire that my loved ones remains be disturbed or removed from the final resting place. As a tax-payer, I can think of better uses for those funds as well.
5) The graves have no names, they merely annotate that these are sailors lost in the explosion of the "Intrepid", thus we know not who is in what grave and the potential cost to discover that is prohibitive and of a much lesser priority than the identification of more recent losses.
6) Although these are indeed brave men who died engaged in the war to thwart the Beshaw and the Barbary Pirates--an enormously significant and formative action in our nation's history, what exact purpose is served in digging up, and dragging home the mixed and unspecified bones of these worthy seamen?
On a different note I have your well done book "300 Years at the Point" did not realize you were the same person (blog and book) until I was reading along on your site. Wonderfully enjoyable work.