Saturday, September 11, 2021

Largest non-nuclear explosion on record hits Beirut Marines, 38 years ago

"We lost a lot of Marines that day.”

By Ed Marek, September 11, 2021


Editor’s note: I wrote this in 2008. There is a lot of solid advice from Marines who experienced the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983. That bombing struck buildings housing American and French service members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, a military peacekeeping operation during the Lebanese Civil War. Two hundred forty one US military members, almost all of whom were Marines.  Fifty eighyt French military members, six civilians were also killed. The two suicide bonbers who attacked were also killed. Given the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, we should all pay attention to what these men had to say.

The attackers were enemies of the United States Some have called this an act of terrorism. I don't buy it. It was an act of war and that war continues to this day. 


General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, sent a message to all Marines on October 15, 2008 and asked them to pause for a moment to remember their lost brothers from Beirut.

The Beirut Veterans of America say this:

"The first duty is to remember."

Part of remembering is to translate what happened then to what we face today. Several Beirut veterans have done this, very well in my view. Let's listen.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Mark Hacala was a Navy corpsman at the time. 

He struck a chord with me, saying this years later:

“What people don’t realize is that there was a ground war going on. The bombing is one element. To the rest of the world, it was an incident without context.

"I think many of us wonder, had we taken a firm stand and a firm response at that time, all these other attacks that took place against us in the coming decades, would they have been tried? Would they have been attempted?”

Brigadier General James M. Lariviere, USMC, who served as a reconnaissance platoon commander in Beirut, has said that this attack was the beginning of America's war against Islamic terrorism. He would also say this:

"They came in peace and died in a blinding instant, and their names are seared into our minds and into the pages of history. As we who live on continue to fight against Islamic terrorism in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, let us be mindful of their service and their sacrifice a quarter century ago. And in doing so, we pledge that we will be Semper Fidelis, always faithful.”

Retired Marine Major Bob Jordan was there and agrees, adding a little zest to the general's observation:

"We were being tested, and we failed the test (angry that the Marines were told to withdraw and there was no retaliation). (This was) the first skirmish in ... the battle against terror ... We need to understand that these people believe in what they are doing ... We need to understand that they are willing to die for it and willing to kill us to achieve it."

During an interview, Jordan made these comments:

"When the Marines pulled out in 1984, Osama bin Laden and many others were watching. They had tested us militarily. They had tested us spiritually. They had tested us politically ... We stood against tyranny. We stood against terror. And we have to remember, make the people, who, who, who wish us harm, they need to know we were not defeated in Beirut. We're still here. And our sons and our daughters, and our grandsons and granddaughters will be told this story, and they will be here for generations in the future. And that's the hope of America."

In yet another interview, Jordan said this: 

“It was too few to be a force and too many to be a presence. They took away our one great strategy and that is our maneuverability. The Israelis insisted we be placed near the airport. They felt our presence there would keep the airport open. What it did was put us in a static position … with the ocean to our back and the mountains to our front ... We were dedicated to a noble but naive mission, but we weren’t allowed to complete it. We now see our children and grandchildren fighting what we would have liked to have finished.”

And I found him yet again saying this:

"We went in, in '82, and everything was dictated ... All of that worked against us ... I think if we had made the stand then, we would not be making it now ... They (the enemy) were not successful with the Marines. They were not successful with the American public at large. They were successful with the politicians."

Donald "Gunny" Inns, a Beirut veteran, would later write:

"Everything I need to know about Mideast madness, i.e., Islamic extremists, militants, terrorists, I learned as a Marine stationed in Beirut in 1983. They will kill as many Americans as we allow them to. Because, historically, many of those Americans killed were members of our military, and the attacks occurred overseas, those protected here at home ignored this reality."

Joe Ciokon has said this:

"The general public doesn't understand, these terrorists work together ... Every terrorist is connected ... We are on the hunt, literally. We will find them. It's just a matter of time.

"These guys (in Congress) saw everything and let it happen ... The colonel told them that 'there's no way I can protect my men in the environment that you've given me here.' Their reaction? 'You're doing a good job. Don't worry about it.'"

David Maderas was a Pfc in the attack and has provided this advice:

"That's their playbook. They built their playbook over time, and, ah, and ah, I would call it like a cult. A cult who is following an ideology and they're building their playbook based on how we respond to certain things. And, I mean, they're taking notes. The prevent defense prevents nothing. And if that's the posture we wanna take, in the United States, okay, I'd like to ask the people who think that way to come down to Jacksonville and stand there next to a mother who lost one of their kids in Beirut and explain to her how we should take a preventive posture.

"In the United States a lot of times, we fall asleep. They do something, and then they let it die out, you know, we're all excited about, you know, the price of gasoline or, you know, whatever the topic of the day is, and we totally lose sight of an issue that really has a lot of substance to it.

Lt. Col. Gerlach, USMC (Ret.) is still in a wheel chair but he is alive and well, and commented this way:

"And I hate war. But by damn, if we don't take a stand, just imagine what would have happened in WWII and how that would've turned out and all the other wars that have gone on.”

Jay Farrar, a former Marine captain who served in Beirut, said this:

"You don't half step it. You deal swiftly and with a tremendous amount of force."

Randy Gaddo, a lieutenant at the time, said this:

"There is a direct connection between the terrorists responsible for the Beirut bombing and the murderers responsible for September 11th, 2001. We have come to realize that the Beirut Bombing was the first major shot fired in the Global War on Terror. We made it our life’s mission to never let America forget that 270 good men died in Lebanon in the name of peace and freedom.

“Terrorism is not something that started in Beirut and it’s not something that stopped after September 11th. Terrorists call it an Islamic holy war. There’s nothing holy about it and to call it that is an affront to peaceful, law abiding people of the Islamic faith. They have chosen to interpret their holy book in such a way as to justify their criminal activity. Terrorism is a crime against humanity on a global scale, pure and simple. It is homicide, murder of innocent men, women and children.”

Colonel Chuck Dallachie was there as a first lieutenant and was injured. He has remarked this way:

"The Marine Corps considers this a black eye. There’s the impression we were caught with our pants down.”

Bill Kibler, a Beirut veteran, has said this:

“It’s imperative that the public realize, the war on terror did not start on September 11, but it started on October 23. A lot of Marine veterans feel like that.”

Colonel Geraghty has also said these things:

"This started a whole series of the suicide truck bombings that just became the favorite weapon of the Islamic extremists ... Bin Laden was inspired by the success of the simultaneous coordinated suicide bombings in '83, and they didn't have that expertise before Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden met in Sudan in 1996.

"Forensics done afterward by FBI and others [show] that this was the largest non nuclear explosion on record. It guaranteed mass casualties. There was no way we could have stopped that bomb in that environment ... We were in the middle of an active international airport and really didn't have control of the people and vehicles entering and exiting. From the first day there, I was uneasy with that location (he would later say it was an abominable location). It was selected for diplomatic and political reasons a year earlier. (It was) a static location surrounded by hills with over 600 tubes of artillery (that) could be brought to bear on us.

"Who would have thought, 25 years later, here we are (fighting) essentially the same crowd? The enemy learned: Terrorism works.”

Imad Fayez Mughnieyh is said to have been the mastermind behind the Beirut bombing. He was killed in Damascus for reasons that are not publicly known.

Tony Sutton said the attack was "one of those defining moments in life. After that day, everything changed.”

General P.X. Kelley, Commandant USMC at the time, told a remembrance gathering in 2006 that people such as those who attacked the 1-8 on October 23, 1983, must be punished. He said: “I will have little sleep until that happens.” 

I'll close out with this comment from Judith Young, whose son, Sgt. Jeffrey Young was killed in the enemy bombing attack:

"It was forgotten two weeks after it happened. No one really knows or understands what happened in Beirut anymore ... Everybody remembers 9-11, but so many have forgotten about October 23, 1983. Just because they were there as peacekeepers doesn’t mean they need to be forgotten.”

GySgt John Snyder, USMC (Ret.) agrees. He's now a third grade teacher and hopes our children learn about the bombing and carry the story forward:

"I worry that the children that I now teach will not teach their children of the day so many good Marines died. For as sad as that day was, it would be sadder still if the sacrifice of so many true heroes was lost to history forever."

I have details on this Beirut attack and will follow-up with reports.

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