Monday, November 28, 2011

Senators look to repatriate 1804 commandos of Tripoli

For years, the Navy has been reluctant to reclaim the remains of its first 13 commandos, who perished in a failed raid on Tripoli Harbor in Libya in 1804 — but pressure has been growing in Congress to force it to do just that.

A final showdown could happen this week in the Senate, where Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, has offered an amendment to compel the Navy to bring home the mangled bodies of the 13, who died while trying to destroy a pirate fleet during the Barbary Wars.

But the Navy is quietly resisting, telling senators that it would prefer to leave the bodies in the two different burial locations.

“These servicemen are currently buried in poorly kept mass graves far away from the country they served and died defending,” Mr. Heller said. “Bringing them home and giving these men a proper military burial will allow their families and other Americans an opportunity to better remember the sacrifices they made for our great nation.”

That repatriation is even a real option is a major turn of events, made possible by politics.

For much of the past few decades, the chances were stymied by the turbulent U.S. relationship with Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who alternately ran cold, then hot, then cold toward the idea, which was being pushed by descendants of the commandos.

But the Gadhafi regime now has been overthrown, and the repatriation effort has the support of the two national heavyweight veterans groups, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

But the Navy stands in the way.


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