Mazzeo, Andrzejczak, Land & Johnson Measure Urging Repatriation of Remains of First Barbary War Veteran Advances

NJ Native Richard Somers Died in 1804 Raid, Is Buried in Tripoli Cemetery

Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Bruce Land and Gordon Johnson sponsored to urge the federal government to work to bring the body of a New Jersey native who died during a 19th century war in the Mediterranean back to U.S. soil was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The measure (AR-173) memorializes the U.S. Secretary of State to negotiate with Libya for the return of the remains of Master Commandant Richard Somers. The Great Egg Harbor native, who died at age 25 and was buried in Tripoli in 1804, was the great-grandson of John Somers, founder of Somers Point.

“Richard Somers commanded the U.S.S Intrepid with integrity and forever will be remembered as a national hero,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The mission to bring back Master Commandant Somers has been ongoing for years by the City of Somers Point and its residents, and we as a state should continue to join their efforts. The nation has a duty to bring his body back to its proper final resting place.”

While he was in command of the Intrepid, Somers and his 12-member crew died during a Sept. 4, 1804 nighttime raid on the Tripoli harbor. Somers has been memorialized by the Navy, with at least six naval warships bearing his name and a monument standing at the United States Naval Academy, but the remains of Somers and his crew are buried in an unkempt cemetery in Tripoli.

“The United States Armed Forces do not leave anyone behind, regardless of where or when they fought for this country,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq. “Somers and his crew made the ultimate sacrifice in Libya, and they deserve a return home.”

“Somers gave his life to promote the interests of a young nation founded on the principles of liberty and freedom,” said Land (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. “Our country must honor him by negotiating for the repatriation of his remains.”

“The United States of America has a sacred obligation to bring fallen troops back home,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who served with the U.S. Army in Operation Desert Storm. “The nation owes Somers and his crew the honor of a military funeral and a burial suitable for heroes of their caliber.”

The resolution was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.