Tuesday, October 23, 2007
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 .
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.  The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building also were killed.
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.
Posted by Jennifer Gallagher at 6:12 AM