Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Never Forget

24 years ago on October 23, 1983, around 6:20 am, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, under the U.S. 2nd Marine Division of the United States Marines, had set up its local headquarters. The truck turned onto an access road leading to the Marines' compound and circled a parking lot. The driver then accelerated and crashed through a barbed wire fence around the parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and barreled into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were operating under their rules of engagement, which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. By the time the two sentries had locked, loaded, and shouldered their weapons, the truck was already inside the building's entry way.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 12,000 pounds (about 5,400kg) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story cinder-block building into rubble, crushing many inside.

About 20 seconds later, an identical attack occurred against the barracks of the French Third Company of the Sixth French Parachute Infantry Regiment. Another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into the building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the headquarters.

Rescue efforts continued for days. While the rescuers were at times hindered by sniper fire, some survivors were pulled from the rubble and airlifted to the RAF hospital in Cyprus or to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany [1].

The death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers. Sixty Americans were injured. In the attack on the French barracks, 58 paratroopers were killed and 15 injured. In addition, the elderly Lebanese custodian of the Marines' building was killed in the first blast. [1] The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building also were killed.[2]

This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas.

The 1983 Beirut barracks bombing was a major incident during the Lebanese Civil War. Two truck bombs struck buildings in Beirut housing U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, killing hundreds of soldiers, the majority being U.S. Marines. The October 23, 1983, blasts led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force from Lebanon, where they had been stationed since the Israeli invasion in 1982.

This is the account of the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut from Wikipedia but it doesn’t completely explain the rules of engagement that contributed so much to the relative ease at which this attack was carried out.

The Marines were sent to Lebanon to be peace keepers by President Ronald Reagan. The rules of engagement were stated by then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger that weapons are not to be loaded and the Marines could not return fire unless it became necessary to defend the position from an attack. When the truck bomber made his run at the front gate the guards had to load their magazines into their rifles and then charge the chamber of their M-16 rifles which takes only seconds but it was long enough to make them unable to stop the truck bomber from completing his mission. Soon after the clean up of the barracks and our dead recovered the Marines were pulled out of Beirut on order from President Reagan. The leaders of the terrorists sponsoring nations such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and later Osama Bin Laden took this as a sign of weakness and called America the “Paper Tiger” which caused them to become emboldened in their endeavors to seek power through terrorists’ activities. Years later Reagan understood and admitted that he had made a huge mistake by withdrawing the Marines and not arming them to the teeth while they were there. A huge lesson had been learned from the deaths of 241 American servicemen. There is no substitute to standing your ground and fighting from a strong well defended position, appeasement never works.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great blog, You say and feel the same things that I do.
I really enjoyed reading your blog and the comment you left over at my place was nothing less then fabulous, God Bless.
Keep it going
Enough Said

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks for the remembrance,and the lesson.

It's one of those examples that bin Laden points to, as a sign that America is a paper tiger. Although al-Qaeda wanted to pitch America into a war, bin Laden was quite surprised by the response from this current President.

Brian Dunbar said...

Side note: the ROE for the Marines on sentry duty in Beirut were identical to the ones for all Marines on sentry duty from at least 1985 to 1987.

I do not know about the standing orders before 1985 - I wasn't enlisted until that year.

I have a vague recollection of knowing that the sentries in Beirut had the same ROE as we did on Barracks duty because it was a peace keeping mission. I do not know if this was official scoop or scuttlebut.

J_G said...

Brian, the offical Rules of engagement for the Beirut mission were just as I said or I wouldn't have stated as much. The position at the Barracks was left virtually defenseless by this misguided policy. There were a lot of angry Navy and Marine personel that saw the destruction of the barracks and asked why the Marines had been put into an active war zone and not be able to defend themselves against an attack. There were no concrete barriers to stop trucks from entering the area and the sentries had no loaded weapons for immediate response all in active and hostile war zone. There was a civil war going on there for goodness sakes. It went against every training lesson and battle lesson the Marines and Navy had ever learned or taught. It took a long time but I eventually forgave President Reagan for this grevious mistake because he took responsiblity for this.

Casper Weinberger has been on my shitlist and remains there for his incompetence and lack of respect for the advice he was given about hanging my shipmates and Marines out to dry. I was discharged honorably from the US Navy two years after this incident because my enlistment was up. I had served a total of 10 years.

J_G said...

Sorry Word and dd2, I had to affirm what I said in my post about the rules of engagement in Beirut. I wouldn't post something here about an event unless I knew it to be a fact.

Anyway thanks for stopping by dd2. I had to voice my opinion about the candidates over at your place because now it has become important to get behind a winner.

Word, the current situation in the middle east started with the weakness and stupidity of Carter and it was enhanced by blunders like the attack on the barracks and subsequent pullout from Beirut. I'm not one of those military people that disparage the whole military for the mistakes of a few at the top such is what is going now. I just know that that we should never forget the lessons learned from these types of blunders and guard against them in the future. It appears that we have succeeded in that regard so that loss of life in 1983 was not in vain.

MonicaR said...

Thanks for this Jennifer. I am glad to learn that Reagan recognized his mistake. If we don't learn from these kind of mistakes, then we are doomed.

I like the prayer. I recognize the first half but not the second. I think I will print this out and put it on my fridge.

J_G said...

Hi Monica, that's the whole version of the serenity prayer. I learned it while I was going through the program 18 years ago because the first part wasn't enough for me and when you add the second part it all makes sense and asks for the right guidance for all difficult to understand situations.

Reagan had his blemishes too, he wasn't a God or man above men. He was man among men that was able to admit and learn from his own mistakes and failings. This disaster was a pretty harsh lesson though.

Paul F. said...

The first stanza is the AA mantra. Cool.

heidianne jackson said...

just found your blog through mike at mikes america. i love it!

i haven't forgotten this nor several other things in our history that influence who we are and who we should be as a nation. unfortunately, this stuff gets swept under the rug by the msm and libs so that they can continue to run around with no responsibility for anything.

carter says that if he had had "just one more helicopter" things would have been different. he has never taken responsibility for his culpability in the expansion of terrorism. and with the nobel committee giving him the peace prize he never will.

thanks for the reminder.

J_G said...

Yup Paul, I make no apologies nor do I hide the fact that the AA program saved my life a little over 18 years ago.

Hello Heidianne, I've never seen you over at Mike's but I do like the name Heidianne.

As far as Carter is concerned, he is just as bad or worse as Clinton. They both cut the military to the bone and expected it to be able to defend against attacks. Carter sent hellicopters into a desert situation that weren't meant to fly in the desert and he could have sent a whole flock of them filled with peanuts and it still would have been a disaster.

Reagan strengthened the military and built it back up to the point where we became a serious military force again. The incident I describe here about the Marine barracks can be attributed to grevious human error by the Secretary of defense along with the Commander in Chief.

Paul F. said...

The program saved my Uncle's life too around the same time and he's still clean and sober...amazingly!

Coincidentally, his name is Bill W.

dons_mind said...

good post jenn - - we need to remember.

TrekMedic251 said...

Thanx, Jenn. I lost quite a few buddies that day (as well as the hearing in my right ear)

J_G said...

Don and Trek, I still haven't been to the Beirut Memorial and I can't explain why. I was shocked, completely shocked at the devastation caused by one truck bomb.

The biggest lesson learned from all of this was that if you're going to send troops anywhere you send them in as battle ready as possible prepared to mount an attack when given the order. Marines are not a peacekeeping force, they are an offensive force, I know exactly how offensive they can be. Heh-heh;-)

Dave Miller said...

Jenn, you make some good points. Most of which seem to imply what I have always believed. If we are going to war, we need to go to war. Calling lawyers to approve bombing plans and not giving battlefield commanders authority to launch strikes is ludicris. There is a reason people used to say war is hell. If we are [were] not willing to lay waste to large areas, we should not be at war. I believe it puts our military in a horrible place to ask them to fight and win a war without sufficient numbers and the political will to do so. Our current war just seems so much like Vietnam one more time.

I am not sure when these practices started, probably with a dem, but they have certainly continued under the current admin.

Marie's Two Cents said...

Thank's for reminding us Jenn.

Semper Fi