Wow. US Marines in Tripoli. Who would have thought? But I don’t mean the Marines are in Tripoli or Libya now. They were there in 1804. Why? An American frigate, USS Philadelphia, had been captured by the Barbary Pirates and brought into Tripoli harbor, which the pirates controlled. In February of 1804, a band of American sailors and US Marines, led by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, USN, made a daring night raid and set the USS Philadelphia afire which destroyed the ship. Thus the line in the Marine Hymn “…to the shores of Tripoli.”
Destruction of USS Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, 16 February 1804 Artwork from the collection of Mr. Stephen Decatur, depicting Philadelphia afire after she was boarded and set ablaze by a party led by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur. In the left foreground is the ketch Intrepid, which Decatur used during this mission.
[Image courtesy of the Department of the Navy – Naval History and Heritage Command.]