They Came In Peace
posted at 9:42 am on October 23, 2010 by Cassy Fiano
“You learn to live with it. It never gets easier.” — Joe Ciokon
“The hurt and the sorrow hasn’t lessened one iota over the years. Every day I pray for them. Every day.” — Tim Geraghty
October 23, 1983 was the day of the Beirut barracks bombing in Lebanon. Two truck bombs detonated in buildings housing French and American troops, killing almost 300. 241 American servicemen were killed: 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers. 58 French soldiers were also killed. It was the deadliest single-day death toll for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the deadliest single-day death toll for the military since the first day of the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War.
At around 6:20 a.m., a yellow Mercedes-Benz truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines under the 2nd Marine Division had set up its local headquarters. The truck wasn’t the water truck they had been expecting, but a hijacked truck carrying the explosives. 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 drove into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were operating under rules of engagement which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. Sentries were ordered to keep their weapons at condition four (no magazine inserted and no rounds in the chamber). By the time the two sentries were able to engage, the truck was already inside the building’s entry way.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 5,400 kg (12,000 pounds) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story building into rubble, crushing many inside. According to Eric Hammel in his history of the Marine landing force,
The force of the explosion initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions.
These Marines, sailors, and soldiers weren’t there to wage war. They were there as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in a civil war-ravaged country. 1st Battalion, 8th Marines suffered the majority of the losses that day. You can see their names here. Look at their names, remember them. Remember the lives torn from them in violence and terror. Their lives were taken when they were trying to bring peace. Honor their sacrifice. Honor their memory.
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