Supporters of the drive to bring the fallen sailors from the USS Intrepid home to the United States say they're hopeful the recent leadership change in Libya will push forward the effort to repatriate the fallen heroes, The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday.
A congressional bill that passed in May included an amendment authored by U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers and Frank LoBiondo that would require the Defense Department to return the bodies of the 13 sailors buried in mass graves in Libya since 1804.
"The United States has an obligation to leave no member of our military behind, regardless of how long ago they were killed," Rogers said when the bill was passed.
The sailors were killed when their ship exploded in Tripoli Harbor while on a mission to destroy Tripoli's fleet during the First Barbary War. When their bodies washed ashore, they were fed to a pack of dogs and then dumped into two mass graves, Rogers said.
Rogers said he joined the effort to bring the remains of the Navy commandos back to the United States for a proper burial after visiting the grave sites in 2004.
The Defense Department has been reluctant to embrace the group's repatriation efforts, saying the sailors received a proper burial during a graveside ceremony in Tripoli in 1947.
"Their concern is that there are other sailors other places that people are going to want to go after," Rogers told the newspaper.