Marine Barracks Bombing Beirut, Lebanon October 23, 1983
Today is October 23, 2017 and most Americans will wake this morning and go about another routine day spending time with their family and friends. For the Marines, family members and loved ones of The Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment their day will not be so care free. The Marines of the Battalion Landing Team will wake for the 34th year with the memories of the worst day and experience of their lives. The date October 23rd and the time 0622 is a date and time they will never forget.
For those of you too young to remember and those of you who have allowed time to let the memory of that date and time fade over the years, on October 23, 1983 at 0622 a 19-ton yellow Mercedes-Benz truck, loaded with 21,000 pounds of TNT, slammed into the four-story concrete building, that hundreds of Marines called home. In an instant the explosion took the lives of 241 of America’s finest.
Moments before 0622, the Sergeant of the Guard recalls hearing the revving of an engine behind him, this was the yellow truck packed full of explosives that had crashed through a 5-foot-high barrier of concertina wire and was speeding toward their guard post on the perimeter of the Marine Barracks. The Sergeant of the Guard, Sgt. Stephen Russell, recalls the truck passing so close to him that he was able to look directly into the eyes of the crazed truck driver, who smiled at him as he sped past toward the Marine Barracks.
Sgt. Russell began yelling “HIT THE DECK, HIT THE DECK!” Most Marine guard post providing security in a combat zone would be manned by heavily armed Marines. Back in 1983 that would have included perhaps an M60 or a .50 Cal., something that may have been able to render a vehicle inoperable. Not in Beirut though, America’s diplomats thought the Marines would better serve their objectives by being peacekeepers.
As the yellow truck loaded with 21,000 pounds of TNT sped toward and past them they instinctively did what Marines are trained to do. As they quickly raised their weapons intent on engaging the truck in an attempt to stop or slow it down, they realized they had to load their weapons—something they were only allowed to do unless being directly engaged. Only one Marine, LCpl Eddie DiFranco managed to load and chamber a round. By that time the truck was already crashing into the building.
Sgt. Russell recalls seeing the truck crash into the building after speeding past them and coming to a complete stop in the center of the Marine Barracks lobby.
“I saw the truck come to a stop, dead center of that lobby… Dead silence in the lobby, you could hear a pin drop,” says Sgt. Russell, who then thought to himself, “son of a bitch, he did it!”
The next thing he describes seeing was a big orange flash!
The big orange flash Sgt. Russell saw, was the largest non-nuclear explosion since WWII. The blast created by 21,000 pounds of TNT literally leveled the four-story building the Marines had called home. There were about 300 service members living in the building. The blast claimed the lives of 241. 220 were Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and 3 Army soldiers. This was the deadliest attack against US Marines since the battle over Iwo Jima in February 1945.
A couple of years ago I had some Marines and family members contribute some personal stories that I published and I will share them again this year.
Since then something has happened that I was about to call interesting, but frankly it ticks me off.
I doubt many Americans are aware of this, but in 2001 about 812 family members sued the government of Iran for directing the bombing of the Marine Barracks by Hezbollah extremist. The families were successful in obtaining a multibillion-dollar recovery in the case, Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran.
On April 20, 2016 almost three years after a federal judge in Manhattan ordered Citibank to turn over $1.9 billion in frozen Iranian Central Bank assets, the U.S. Supreme Court finally cleared the way for the assets to be distributed to the plaintiffs.
In spite of the highest court in the land approving the release of Iranian funds to pay the judgment to the Marines, to the best of my knowledge none of them have been paid. What irks me about this is that Obama just turned billions of dollars over to the Iranians that should have been used to pay judgment to these families. Obama used some excuse about it being their money and if we had not given it back, they “might” have sought a judgment against the US in international court. Make no mistake about it, the money was NOT theirs!
It’s just my humble opinion, but everyone of these families and Marines that were part of the lawsuit that obtained the judgment against Iran should have been paid BEFORE Iran ever received a dime!
The Marines and families of the Beirut casualties did not have all of the resources and support available to them that our wounded warriors do involved in the War on Terror today. Hell, a lot of the country had no clue the Marines were even there. I try to write something on the Beirut bombing every year because in recent years they are not even mentioned by the main stream media. We should NEVER forget those who have sacrificed for our nation, most of all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice!
Please share your thoughts and leave the Marines a message in the comment section.
Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.
—SgtMaj Daniel Daly 1873-1937