THE NAVY IS WRONG!
Executive Summary of the response by the families of The Intrepid Project to the Department of Defense report regarding the feasibility of recovering the remains of the crew of the United States Ketch Intrepid from the Old Protestant Cemetery in Tripoli, Libya.
The Intrepid Project is an independent, non-profit, grass-roots organization that represents the descendants of two officers that died in action 4 September 1804 while serving on the United States Ketch Intrepid
in Tripoli, Libya – Master Commandant Richard Somers and Lieutenant Henry Wadsworth. The Intrepid Project represents the citizens of Somers Point, N.J., who have long spearheaded the effort to recover the remains of Somers, Wadsworth and the 11 men who died with them. The Intrepid Project is also the only advocate group for the 11 men on the Intrepid
that died without family. The Intrepid Project has conducted thorough research into the burial location in Tripoli, utilizing maps, tide, current and wind conditions, and first-person accounts.
The explosion of the Intrepid
the night of September 4, 1804, undoubtedly caused horrific damage to the bodies of the men on board. Subsequent abuse to the bodies in the form of dogs that fed on the remains, caused even more damage. However, the sources, far from being contradictory as the DoD report contends, offer a nearly complete picture of how and where American prisoners interred the remains.
The DoD report makes many such contentions regarding historical sources that describe the location of the crew’s burial. What the DoD doesn’t detail, however, is the methodology it used in coming to its conclusions. Instead of taking each account in context of its author and using all accounts as one story, the DoD used them piecemeal, discounting those portions that belie its own pre-ordained conclusions.
The most egregious example of this comes in the portion of the report in which the DoD purports to examine the accounts of American eyewitnesses. The DoD takes great pains to discuss contradictions in those accounts but never puts those accounts into context. In quoting U.S. Marine Corps Private William Ray, for example, the DoD report doesn’t say Ray never saw the remains and was merely re-telling a story he heard from Arab guards and Neapolitan prisoners.
The DoD report is, in essence, an historically sourced shell game in which any facts that might gainsay the ultimate conclusions of the report fall into the palm of the DoD writers while they move the shells across the table. The DoD report makes no use of any Libyan sources, including the most comprehensive history of the Old Protestant Cemetery, “Secrets of the Old Protestant Cemetery Revealed,” an in-depth study of every person buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery by the Libyan Antiquities Ministry in 2008.
Then, there is the consistent use of the term “American Cemetery” by DoD. This is a completely misleading nomenclature. The cemetery in which the Intrepid
crew are buried is the Old Protestant Cemetery. There is nothing in any diplomatic document that re-names the cemetery the “American Cemetery.” The use of this fabricated name is yet another attempt by DoD to make it appear the cemetery is somehow American-run, which it is not. The DoD report does point out in several places that the cemetery is under Libyan jurisdiction and that it is Libyan, not American, funds that maintain it. The continued use of “American Cemetery” in referring to the Old Protestant Cemetery, then, is a clear attempt to obfuscate this salient fact. The DoD has no authority whatsoever over the Old Protestant Cemetery or its contents and is at the mercy of the Libyan government when it comes to the maintenance and security of the graves of the Intrepid
This last fact cannot receive too much emphasis. The DoD report thanks the Libyans for their work in maintaining and safeguarding the cemetery. It fails to mention that before executing a massive restoration project last year immediately prior to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visiting Tripoli, the Old Protestant Cemetery was in a state of utter disrepair, with the northwestern wall quite literally crumbling onto the sandstone escarpment on which it sits. The deterioration was so extensive the Libyans feared the cemetery could collapse onto the Al Fatah highway – the road that runs immediately alongside the cemetery – and could potentially fall into the Mediterranean Sea, which is adjacent to the roadway.
The DoD report makes no mention of the possibility of an anti-American government or fundamental Islamic government taking control of Libya. It makes no mention of the desecration of the Commonwealth Cemetery in Tobruk, a cemetery that holds the remains of British, Australian and New Zealand troops killed in action in Libya during World War II. Should an anti-American or anti-Western government come to power in Libya, there can be no guarantee of safety for these American graves in the heart of Tripoli. Indeed, it is safe to believe just the opposite would be true – that the same mob-mentality that led to the desecration of the Commonwealth cemetery, that the same terrorist cells that murdered the United States Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, would seek to destroy the graves of any American military in Libya, especially so since the United States Navy still regards Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth as heroes.
The DoD report also fails to point out the fact the Old Protestant Cemetery, as a Libyan national heritage site, cannot have an American flag flying over the graves of the American sailors buried there. Instead, they lie under a foreign flag, except for rare occasions when American dignitaries visit and caretakers place small American flags in flower pots on the graves. These flags are quickly removed after any ceremony.
For these reasons and more, the Intrepid Project believes the DoD report is irrelevant and merely serves to express the myopic outlook of one office within the DoD. As such, it ignores the will of the American people, as expressed in petitions and in the support of 5.5 million veterans from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVETS. Far from being problematic, the Intrepid Project believes the repatriation of these men of the Intrepid
can be accomplished simply and quickly, with the assistance of the current Libyan government and we urge the House and Senate to work with us in developing a legislative remedy to this question.
This excerpt is the Executive Summary of The Intrepid Project Rebuttal to a recent US Navy report. The entire document is available for download here