Senators want brought home sailors killed more than 200 years ago
November 14th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Senators want brought home sailors killed more than 200 years ago

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Amidst the uproar over recent problems with handling the bodies of U.S. military killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. lawmakers are calling attention to U.S. war dead from more than two centuries ago.

Three U.S. senators are calling on the Defense Department to find and bring home the bodies of some 13 sailors lost in 1804 when a U.S. Navy ship, the Ketch Intrepid, blew up in Tripoli Harbor during the long campaign against pirates along the North African coast, known as the First Barbary War.

"For more than two hundred years, these sailors have laid to rest in a cemetery on foreign soil. It's past time that we give these men a proper military burial in the country they died defending," Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said in a release. He introduced the bill with Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts.

"Gathering the remains of these brave sailors, two of whom were from Massachusetts, demonstrates America's commitment to pay tribute to our fallen heroes, no matter how much time has passed," Brown said. "With reports that some still remain in a mass grave, we have a duty to ensure our sailors are buried with the honor and respect they deserve."

Raymond Kelley of the Veterans of Foreign Wars wrote a letter saying 2 million VFW members support the proposed legislation and the return of the sailors. "Unlike other U.S. graves on foreign soil, such as Normandy, these heroes received no military burial," Kelly wrote in a letter to Heller, referring to the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking the D-Day invasion beaches of France, with the graves of more than 9,000 Americans.

"In fact, several sailors are buried in one mass grave, testifying to the disrespect shown when they were interred. It is time to bring them home to have a proper military burial."

The senators say the graves in what is now Libya are isolated and in poor condition.

"This legislation serves as a reminder to all service men and women that we will never cease in our efforts to bring a fallen service member home, nor will we ever forget the sacrifices that have been made by them and their families," Boozman said.

A similar proposal for the Defense Department to bring the sailors home already has passed the House of Representatives.

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Filed under: Libya • Military
soundoff (84 Responses)
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    November 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  4. Munawar

    Oh ! could that be WMD – War Mongering Devils – the remains of which they are trying to find and return back. How sick that would be – it was these WMDs, Bush and Co. wanted to find in Iraq.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  5. Loraine

    I have an idea–these Republican Congressmen can go look for these sailors, and then stay there when they are finished!

    November 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  6. Danno

    The U.S. government could have had easy access to this grave site for years after World War II and never saw fit to move the remains. That's because up until now it's been a non-issue. Just Grandstanding.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  7. Luci

    Quite honestly, forming up ANOTHER group to find the sailors remains is rather stupid. There's already an agency made up of both military and civilians whose sole job is to find the remains of military members and return them to US soil.

    So....make this just another mission for them instead of wasting more money on gathering the obviously all-civilian crew these Senators are wanting.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  8. UnluckyEddy

    Now as a Sailor I do not agree. Say a few words over the sight and let the lost sailors rest in their grave.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  9. Dan the man

    Yep they have lost the plot folks, 20 million out of proper work, 50 million living in poverty, the country on the brink of bankruptcy, and were devoting time to bringing home remains from 200 years ago! They should be fired, dismissed from the Senate! Where in the holl are the priorities???

    November 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • Joel

      The priorities are on campaign contributions for the next election, and catering to the whims of those who contribute.

      November 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  10. jim

    Billions of years from now, our Sun will become a Red Giant and will consume the Earth... does this even matter? Does anything?

    November 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • bn

      Always been an optimist?

      November 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  11. Linann

    Are you kidding me? Let's spend millions of dollars, looking for bodies that are no longer on this Earth.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  12. Gi Joe

    It is with great disgust that I read some of the rants on this story. My father was killed in Vietnam. Last year they found him and brought him home. I have just ended my 7th tour in 11 years, and I would hope that if I had died instead of being wounded, that I would have been brought home. A fallen service man needs to come matter the time or the cost.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
    • Hello in there????

      I am really sorry as I didn't think about today's soldiers and the families of Viet Nam veterans. I should have though since my son is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars. In most ways, you are correct. It is important to bring home soldiers from wars.

      I'm just not sure going back 200 years is going to do any good. From a purely practical standpoint, the bones are long long....buried in the ocean floor or traveling to who knows where with the current.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
      • Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs

        Everyone in the USA needs DNA testing done to see if there were relatives. That would also only be fair.

        November 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Linann

      I understand what you say, my son is in the ARMY and I would want him home. But the NAVY is a differant story. If someone dies at sea, let them rest at sea.

      November 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
      • Illthroat you

        You're kidding right? You can't have it both ways. What's good for one is good for another. Just because your son isn't bright enough to pass the enterance standards for the Marines or Navy doesn't mean that his body deserves to be brought back onto US soil anymore than someone who was killed at sea.

        November 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
      • Hello in there????

        To Illthroatyou .... While I agree with your point, you don't have to be rude and condescending to those with who you disagree..

        November 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
      • Cindi

        How can one say that an army soldier's death is more tragic than a Navy soldier's death, they both are equally tragic. My son is fighting in Afghanistan, and laughs at people who make stupid comments about the military who know nothing of the military ways.

        November 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • UnluckyEddy

      I am a Sailor and for me a watery grave would be what I expect. Should we comb all the harbors that saw battle durring the many wars that we have seen on our coast to bring up the bodies of Sailors who have died there? Should we send a DSRV down to the USS Scorpion which sank in the Atlantic to recover the bodies of those Submariners? I'll tell you what all the Sub Sailors out in the world would say to that. Do not disturb their rest.

      November 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  13. Hello in there????

    Sure, let's spend time and resources on bringing home 200 year dead sailors instead of dealing with the economy and the quickly sinking ship called the U.S.


    November 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  14. Gonzo

    "Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals."
    – Gladstone.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Reply
    • Hello in there????

      The sad thing is that our congress doesn't care about the poor in this country. The teapublicans prove it every time they open their mouths.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  15. Professor Trollworth

    What if some of the bones were carried away by beavers? How are they going to find all the pieces? If you only collect some of the bones, then the ghosts might not stop haunting the place. That IS why they are doing this right? I didn't read the entire article. Not burying soldiers right is the 3rd leading cause of extreme hauntings which is the 7th top reason for annoyance in the home.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:24 am | Reply

      Senator Dean Heller, John Boozman and Scott Brown you do known that our nation is in a economic crisis, or is it all just bullshit. Charles and cnn.... you just wasted 5 minutes of my time reading this shit. Let the Senators put some money together and go get them. dean, scott and john, shames on you, i bet you also suppot Sundusky?

      November 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  16. Kevin

    What a load of BS. I can not say I am sure of their motivation but it seems worthy of Hollywood. The state always neglects the living issues with veterans. How about dealing with the agent orange victims from Vietnam or maybe now the Gulf War syndrome or those ravaged by depleted uranium ? If we just want to talk about honor for US sailors dying iin the Med, how about straightening out the USS Liberty debacle where sailors were told to shut up about the attack that they suffered while help from the rest of the US military was purposely withheld.There are suckers born every minute and those who say about these men who suggest this "How noble how good it would be to have our boys back on our soil" have just let them put a ring in their nose, if they do not already have several jangling there.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
  17. src

    The reality is that they are not there so there's no one to bring home. Only their bones remain. Their souls are elsewhere - they have gone home. This is a HUGE waste of time, effort, and money. And it's pointless. There are more important issues that need to be addressed. This is nothing but a distraction.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • Lori Champion

      It is not a distraction, it is the right thing to do. Whether it is bones or not it is still the remains of American soldiers, they deserve the right to be brought home and buried properly. And America needs to do this for them. As far as a huge waste of money, well we borrow money every day, we are so in debt its unreal and we are ALWAYS going to be in debt.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
    • cherrypieguy

      TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO.............GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!! This is the most absurd thing I can ever recall. This is an attempt to use the love of your country to drag the spotlight away from the republican rights attempts to deliver a death blow to the American worker. Four generations have passed since this happened. Maybe the idiotic senators and representatives should address the reason as to why we went to War in the first place that took the lives of 5,000 of our young and older servicemen in the last ten years.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • MadasHell!

      All of these Senator proposing these proposition weren't even born yet. No matter where these soldiers die they will always be remember anywhere they are bury. In addition, all those soldiers will all be together when the Lord return to gather all His children no matter where they are. So, having stated this Senator are wasting their time and money on something that happen two hundreds years ago. Let them where they are or just make another cemetery for all American soldiers who fought defending this country. This will save a lot of money and time.......

      November 15, 2011 at 11:36 am | Reply
  18. Lee Anne

    The author refers to the Normandy cemetery as being "foreign soil", but I seem to recall that France deeded the entire cemetery to the US, so the graves are on US soil.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Same with the WW1 cemetery in France. Considered to be US soil.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
  19. Tom Palmer

    All well and good, BUT...with the economy in the tank, I would think Congress should postpone this discussion, postpone naming government buildings, postpone arguing about the official motto, etc., etc., ... and earn their pay by getting to work on the REAL issues. NOW!!! I was a Republican till I watch the present congress willing to let(help) the country tank in order to hurt the President. Like they have said, their #1 job is to defeat Obama, not work on America's problems.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • AL

      No, sorry – the bodies of these soldiers is important. I, and probably you do too, have friends/family members in the military. When they die in combat, serving our country, they need to be treated with respect and brought back. We have an opportunity, we should use it. The amount of money to be spent on this won't amount to much – and to be honest, we will always have "money issues".

      November 15, 2011 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • Lori Champion

      Ok, granted, but we will ALWAYS have problems. We borrow money every day just to keep America floating, it sad and a shame but once again, if this had happened twenty years ago, people would be in an uproar over NOT bringing their remains home. Look at Vietnam, people still want the bodies back from that war and rightly so.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:09 am | Reply
  20. Lori Champion

    I have to say that I was never in the military but both my husband and my father were and really I agree that we need to take care of whats wrong with our country, hopefully in this next election we will by getting rid of who is in the White House now, however I feel that we need to bring our dead soldiers home, if it had happened twenty years ago, America would be clamoring to bring them home. They served THIS country, not a foreign one so they deserve to be brought home.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:48 am | Reply
    • AL

      If your father and husband were in the military, you were in the military. You may never have signed-up, but you are part of the military family. Be proud (I am sure you are) 🙂

      November 15, 2011 at 9:35 am | Reply
      • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

        I agree. As we used to say, the hardest job in the Navy was being a wife of a Sailor. Now as there are both men and women serving, we can change "wife" to "spouse"

        November 15, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  21. tim

    I can't see the cost nbeing that great,maybe we should take some of the money we spent on illegals and use it to do this would be money well spent

    November 15, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • Lilbitga

      If they are buried in a mass grave then the only way to discover the 3 Americans emains would be through DNA testing which is expensive. Do they still have any living relatives who could provide a DNA sample for comparison? If their bodies are at sea then that could run into the millions for the time and equipment necessary to search the ocean for them. It is not like they still have any living relatives that personally knew them to grieve over their graves. It makes me wonder which Senator's friend's company wants to line their corporate pocket off of the American taxpaper. I can easily see this search running into the millions of dollars. While in theory it would be nice to bring them home, the reality of the cost should put the kebash on this legislation. And we wonder why the government is so far in debt with their usless spending. There are much more important matters that need to be dealt with here and now.

      November 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  22. latrevia

    if this is the only solution the republicans can come up with admist all america's problems...then we have a long way to dont fall for the hype citizens we must keep moving because there r more important things to life than trying to 'find' 200 yr old bones ....

    November 15, 2011 at 5:49 am | Reply
  23. abdul

    Great. The US should spend more bring back dead soldiers. Must be Democrats, always ready to spend, spend
    and spend.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:55 am | Reply
    • USinGER

      Umm... did you read the article? It says that they are all Republicans....

      November 15, 2011 at 5:10 am | Reply
    • AL


      November 15, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply
  24. Karen H

    We simply don't have the luxury to use tax dollars on something like this now. We have people in this country who are dying because they cannot afford to go to the doctor. Our middle class is being eroded. Many of our veterans are not getting the proper care they need. We need to take care of the living. rel

    The rich have become much wealthier in the past decade. Some of them could surely cough up the bucks to do this, rather than using tax dollars.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:34 am | Reply
  25. Thomas Klimchuk

    no country wants to leave its war died behind but arent there more presing problams facing America today I must addmitt it would make great tv coverage on good morning america flags flying bands playing the c-17 taxing to the ramp the gov officials and all the military brass standing around for the show to began yes indeed

    November 15, 2011 at 4:06 am | Reply
  26. Emelia

    It's a fine thing to do, really. The problem is, I have a sinking suspicion this is more for the sake of positive publicity for the Republican party. They kept saying "to show the public" and things along those lines-are they doing this out of the respect for the fallen and the goodness of their hearts, or are they doing it to win brownie points? 🙁 I really never know what to think with these political parties, but I do think it's a fine gesture either way, even if the intentions end up being less than pure.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:46 am | Reply
  27. bs

    They need to worry about things Today! Including the wars, economy, health care, poverty, and living people!

    November 15, 2011 at 3:15 am | Reply
  28. Jake

    As an Iraq vet I strongly believe that it is our govt duty to ensure that every fallen hero is brought home, no matter how many years has sinced passed since they were among the living. And as for this being some political agenda maybe but the believe that this is going to break the bank get real.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:17 am | Reply
    • humberto

      You have absolutly no idea when your being used ? What kind of training did you get ???

      November 15, 2011 at 3:31 am | Reply
    • Bentley76

      I agree with your sentiment. That is why the DoD is working with North Korea and Vietnam to find and recover war dead from previous conflicts.
      Please read my previous post- the US and Britain jointly used Wheelus AFB near Tripoli from 1943 until 1970. During that time, hundreds of graves dot part of the base, many of them still-born babies. When the US withdrew from the base after Qaddafi took power, the US left the remains there. However, over the years, members of the regime and others dug up the graves and in some instances, either burned the remains or took them to the coast and dumped them into the Mediterranean- similar to what happened to Italian graves there and to French graves in neighboring Algeria.
      I agree with the concept that all should be recovered, but that should be extended to those who died in Libya when it was an ally, not just an enemy.

      November 15, 2011 at 4:23 am | Reply
  29. m

    The real reason why we had to get rid of the Libyan thug. Since the Senate is doing anything meaningful senators may as spend their time on something like this.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:51 am | Reply
  30. Bentley76

    We should also bring home the scores of remains of soldiers and their dependents who were also buried at then-Wheelus AFB near Tripoli. Some of the graves were desecrated after Moammar Qaddafi came to power and the base was vacated by the USAF in 1970.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:09 am | Reply
  31. TexMan

    Talk about taking your eye off the ball.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:42 am | Reply
  32. Chantal

    Posthumous rewards and ceremonies are really done for the living to make them feel better. Dead bodies don't have the ability to care what happens to them. They're just rotting bags of protein.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:33 am | Reply
  33. radgast

    I am all for it, how are they going to pay for it?

    November 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  34. Joe

    Do it.
    1. This isn't a deep sea dive. They are in a harbor. This shouldn't be weeks and weeks of exploration like the Titanic.
    2. Libya owes us, and it make actually allow us in in the next 2 months that it would take to get some dive equipment there. Who knows how long that will last?
    3. The U.S. government has an obligation to its military service members who die in combat.
    4. Think where the world would be today if the Somali pirates were a worldwide phenomenon. This is what piracy was back then, and these sailors took them on.

    November 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      And on re-reading it, some or all of them may be on the land in Libya. That's a no-brainer.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  35. David, Tampa

    We have a similar problem at St Augustine. There are around 800 British soldiers who got smoked by the French. They were buried in a shallow grave that is so shallow that walking on the grass is prohibited. I was under the impression that when troops are buried like this, the home country is expected to show up and take them home. Or Not!

    November 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Reply
    • Karen H

      The British have a tradition of burying soldiers where they fell. You find British military cemeteries all over the world.

      November 15, 2011 at 4:30 am | Reply
  36. nicole

    Really?...spend the $$ to go get 200 yr old remains of sailors. Because thats what they would want,right?...take the $$$ from the mouths they fought & died for & spend it to go excume their watery graves...
    Yes!...thats what they want!
    I wonder if one of those senators said that they got a "visit" from one of those lost their dreams. Would explain the idiotic jesture...

    November 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  37. David, Tampa

    mmmmmm Normandy is going to be an amazing enterprise. Someone in congress must have brother in the burial biz!!

    November 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  38. rocraccoon

    Boy, I can't wait until the elections next year. I use a very simple formula, If the person is running for reection, I'm not voting for that person. The proper attire for these politicians should be clown outfits instead of suits. SHAMEFUL. Fix the economy first.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  39. Me

    Dumbass all of you

    November 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Reply
  40. savannah

    Exactly. Compared to the money being spent on the immigration arguements (which is idiotic), no child left behind (its not working!), and things of that nature, this is nothing but bringing some boys who deserve a proper American burial home. Have some decency. If it was a family member who died in Iraq you'd want it done the same for them.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Reply
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  42. tray117

    Business as usual. ALL of our politicians waste time, money, resources on ANYTHING that isn't relevant just to pretend to be "working" for their constituents. I think it's wrong to leave American bodies behind but this issue is over 200 years old. All these lying scumbags should burn for NOT DOING ANYTHING!

    November 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      No arguments there, but please. These people are our veterans. Have some respect for the dead. I don't care if they are 200 years gone, they still fought for our country to become what it is today. The amount of money spent to exhume their bodies and bring them home pales in comparison to other monetary blunders our government in performing. I agree with you about our government wasting money, just not here. Have some respect please.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  43. Sassy Lassie

    I think there are better things to do with taxpayer's money.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  44. richp

    You got to be kidding me, you clowns in DC must be bored and have nothing to do, well, we'll take care of a few more of you next year.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  45. a miyahira

    How many sailors and pilots died at sea and in aircrafts are buried in sea? Let's honor them by letting them rest in peace. Let's start thinking about the present and future vets by taking care of them now.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  46. a miyahira

    How many sailors and pilots died at sea and in aircrafts are buried in sea? Let's honor them by letting rest in peace and let's start taking care our present vets with the honor and duignity they deserve.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  47. John

    Seriously??!! Someone in this forum has made this into another Republican/Tea Party diatribe against those Satan worshiping Liberals??!! The Republicans are the party advocating for reducing benefits for our EXISTING AND LIVING Veterans rather than ask the wealthiest 1% to sacrifice.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  48. Cindi

    These dead sailors are of the past have nothing to do with the present problems here today in America today. They are military soldiers of the United States-HONOR them.

    November 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      Thank you. At least now I know I'm not the only American left with some decency.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  49. Rob

    This is a waste of money and more grandstanding. Use the money to take care of veterans who are still alive today and have had their healthcare coverage reduced.

    November 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • Charlotte

      That's right. Let them rest in peace where they lay. Do you really think you can even find relatives for those men. Instead, povide better care for returning vets injured and not injured. Also, if you really want to impact vets how about honoring the Viet Nam Vets that have suffered in silence over the last 40 years. They returned home to be spit at and ignored despite devistating emotional injuries....

      November 15, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
  50. JamesRaynor

    i'd say its better to donate the money for the search to take care of homeless veterans.

    this is such a stupid meaningless gesture. there is such a thing as too late and 200 years would do it.

    November 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  51. salman

    if you know you can find 'em, bury 'em. if you know you can't find 'em, don't waste time and money on 'em. we've got debts to pay off.

    November 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  52. savannah_is_a_douche

    In 1949, 5 of these soldiers were memorialized in a service attended by members of the USS Spokane.

    November 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  53. savannah

    Maybe because those REPUBLICANS value the sacrifices that were made. And the "window dressing" as you call it is called Veterans Day. How many veterans did you thank for their service this year? Until the DEMOCRATS learn to stop whining about how few rights illegals have and start thinking about the vets its the REPUBLICAN'S job to honor them as best they can. Think about that next time you complain. Liberal.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  54. Karen Braxton

    Why are these Republicans so intent on taking bones from their 200 year old grave in order to give them a MILITARY BURIAL in this country when these same Republican lawmakers insist our country can not afford to properly feed it's children? This would be a fine project once all the living in our nation had enough to eat and the safety of a roof & four walls around them. If these Republicans want to honor those who served this country, let them see to it that our living veterans are provided food, homes, medical care they need & jobs as well as protection from foreclosure by the predatory lenders who have already made a new group of homeless vets by the thousands. And they should reinstate the military pensions they have recently cut citing "no money." Until then, this hollow gesture can only be seen as sham window dressing for the day in our November calendar during which we remember & value our military veterans for a few minutes. Republicans must learn that the living must be taken care of first befo

    November 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply

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