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Remains of 1804 crew may stay in Libya

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Unread 12.26.11, 06:30 PM
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Remains of 1804 crew may stay in Libya

12.26.11 02:04 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Congress is pressuring the Defense Department to repatriate the bodies of a U.S. Navy crew that perished off the shore of Libya 207 years ago.

The battle to bring the remains of Capt. Richard Somers of New jersey and his 12 shipmates has been going on for decades, Stars and Stripes reported.

Now, in the wake of the uprising in Libya, Congress is again requesting the Navy repatriate the bodies.

Somers' mission in 1804 was to sail the explosive-filled Intrepid into Tripoli harbor and blow it up amid a fleet of pirate ships.

However, the Intrepid exploded in the harbor before reaching its target, for unknown reasons.

"When these bodies washed ashore, some pretty horrible stuff happened. They were drug through the streets, fed to dogs, and worse than that, and then thrown into a mass grave," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. "There's been an ongoing effort, by a dedicated and now-expanded group, to try to get them back on U.S. soil."

The Navy has resisted the efforts, citing a tradition of honoring the final resting place of those lost during service.

"Right now, the Navy's position has not changed," said Lt. Lauryn Dempsey, a Navy spokeswoman. "The chief of naval operations considers the Tripoli Protestant Cemetery to be the final resting place."

In its most recent effort to pressure the Navy to retrieve the bodies, Congress passed a bill, which is awaiting a signature from President Barack Obama, that orders the Navy and the Department of Defense to review the feasibility of recovering the remains and report a recommendation back to Congress, Stars and Stripes said.

Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser said he is pessimistic about the results of the measure.

"We're hopeful they come back and say, 'OK, we can do this,'" Glasser said. "But our fears are that they come back and say it costs too much money for whatever reasons. Or that someday they'll have another regime change over there and they'll desecrate these remains and they'll be lost forever."

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