Remembering Beirut Bombing.

Tags: HeroStories

Dear Family, Friends, Marines and shipmates

Today is the 25th Anniversary and Remembrance of the BLT 1/8 Command

Operations Center & Barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon and this

horrific event will be recognized by a Ceremony of Remembrance at the

Beirut Memorial at Camp Johnson, NC.

The ceremony will commence at 10:30 AM with the Commandant of the Marine

Corps, General Jim Conway, as the Guest Speaker.  Former Commandant of

the Marine Corps, General Al Gray, will also be present and address the

audience which every year since 1986 includes family and friends of the

241 Marines, Sailors and Soldiers lost that tragic day. This will be

first time since before the bombing one perhaps the last salute, a

formation in ranks by rifle company of all those Marines & Corpsman who

served under our Battalion Commander  LtCol Larry Gerlach, USMC who was

severely wounded on that day. My thoughts are with the family survivors

and my brother Marines and Sailors, my duty is here.

Never forget our Marines, my brothers that paid the full measure of

their lives...and all those past present continue to still serve with

valor. I am proud of them one and all...that the Corps remembers their

sacrifices, every day.

Semper Fidelis

CDR Joseph ("Jake") Schneider, USN

(Former Sgt of Marines, BLT 1/8)

"Our first Duty is to Remember" - BVA

(SgtMaj Daniel Terwilliger, MNSTC-I Command Senior Enlisted- sent this

PME around to all MARINES in IZ in tribute to our heritage and warrior


-----Original Message-----

From: Terwilliger, Daniel C

Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2008 07:29

Subject: 23 Oct 1983 Terrorist Bombing in Beirut, Lebanon

Good Morning Marines, LEST WE FORGET....

Please track down CDR Schneider today and say thank you, not just for

his service but for his continued personal sacrifice to our country.

For, he was there with so many of our brothers that fell on that fateful


As I have said in a previous email..this was not only a professional,

but a personal loss for most of us. We will continue to be the "FIRST TO

FIGHT", and will be the first to die.  The only thing we have ever

feared in life, is letting each other down.

May God bless you and your families.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.



Proceedings exclusive, the commanding officer of the Marine unit

devastated by the suicide bombing of its barracks in Beirut recounts the

horror of that October day 25 years ago and calls it a seminal event in

the war against Islamist extremists.

On Sunday morning, 23 October 1983, I awoke as usual at dawn, dressed,

and went below to the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit's Combat Operations

Center to check the overnight communications traffic. I roamed outside

my headquarters at Beirut International Airport to view the dawn, struck

by the quiet of the morning. I saw Marines going about their duties and

greeted others preparing for a workout. Being Sunday, we were on a

modified routine that pushed reveille back an hour to 0630, with Sunday

brunch served between 0800 and 1000.

I returned to my office, which I shared with my executive officer,

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Slacum, to review the daily schedule. Little

did we know that this morning would be anything but quiet and routine.

At 0622, a massive explosion rocked our headquarters, followed by

enormous shock waves. Shards of glass from the blown out windows,

equipment, manuals, and papers flew across the room. The office entry

door, located on the far side away from the explosion, was blown off its

hinges, the frame bent and the reinforced concrete foundation of the

building cracked.

I ran outside to find myself engulfed in a dense, gray fog of ash, with

debris still raining down. I felt sickened as I stumbled around to the

rear of my headquarters, thinking we had taken a direct hit from a Scud

missile or heavy artillery. As the acrid fog began lifting, my logistics

officer, Major Bob Melton, gasped, "My God, the BLT building is gone!" A

knot tightened in my gut.

After an instant of disbelief, I quickly realized we had suffered heavy

casualties. I later learned that a suicide driver penetrated our

southern perimeter and rammed a 19-ton truck bomb into the lobby of the

Marine Battalion Landing Team (BLT) building and detonated it. Forensics

and intelligence later estimated the compressed-gas-enhanced device to

have an explosive equivalent in excess of 20,000 pounds of TNT. Minutes

later, a similar truck bomb struck the French paratrooper headquarters

at Ramlet-El-Baida, bringing down a nine-story building and killing 58

French peacekeepers.

This started the longest and most miserable day of my life. The death

toll eventually reached 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers, the highest

loss of life in a single day since D-Day on Iwo Jima in 1945. The

coordinated dual suicide attacks, supported, planned, organized, and

financed by Iran and Syria using Shiite proxies, achieved their

strategic goal: the withdrawal of the multinational force from Lebanon

and a dramatic change in U.S. national policy. The synchronized attacks

that morning killed 299 U.S. and French peacekeepers and wounded scores

more. The cost to the Iranian/Syrian-supported operation was two suicide

bombers dead.

Remembrance and Justice

At dawn this 23 October, a solemn candlelight vigil will begin the day

at the foot of the Beirut Memorial, nestled in the pines of North

Carolina. Families, veterans, and friends will gather to pay tribute to

those who "Came in Peace" on this, the 25th anniversary. Each name

etched on the marble wall of the memorial will be read aloud by a family

member or friend. Later, a more formal ceremony will include military

music, pageantry, and speeches commemorating the legacy of the

peacekeepers who paid the ultimate sacrifice. A wreath will be laid at

the foot of the statue of the lone Marine standing perpetual guard at

the memorial.

The quiet strength and dignity displayed by the families of those lost

is a continual source of inspiration to me. There are numerous stories

about how they picked up the pieces of shattered lives, helped one

another, and carried on to raise their families. There is no finer

tribute to honor the memories of these fallen.

In the Iranian Behesht-E-Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran, there will

also be a ceremony at a monument erected in 2004 to commemorate the

Beirut suicide bombers. In attendance will likely be some dressed as

suicide bombers, chanting the standard "death to America" and "death to


One individual who will be absent this year is Imad Fayez Mugniyah, one

of the world's most wanted and notorious terrorists. He was a key

operative in the suicide bombings that Sunday morning in Beirut and has

been linked with many major operations including the 1984 kidnapping and

murder of the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley. Mugniyah was

also directly in charge of the 1988 kidnapping and execution of Marine

Corps Colonel Rich Higgins, who was serving with the United Nations

peacekeeping mission. And he was indicted in absentia by the U.S.

government for his role in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985,

which led to the savage beating and execution of U.S. Navy diver Robert


Long overdue justice was finally served on 12 February 2008. In an

ironic twist, Mugniyah was assassinated in a quiet, upscale neighborhood

of Damascus-by a car bomb, one of his weapons of choice. His greatest

notoriety was pioneering the widespread use of suicide bombers, which

has evolved to become the favored tactic of Islamic extremists.

Osama bin Laden took inspiration from Mugniyah's 1983 bombings and used

that model for al Qaeda's first successful dual suicide bombings against

the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on 7

August 1998. Before a meeting between bin Laden and Mugniyah in Sudan in

1996, al Qaeda did not have this expertise. But it later expanded the

simultaneous, coordinated suicide bombing model for the four commercial

airline hijackings and attacks on 11 September 2001.

The events that Sunday morning in Beirut exposed a deep-seated

fanaticism fanned by Islamic jihadists without sectarian divisions.

Recent history has made us more familiar with this phenomenon. The 18

April bombing of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks' bombings in

Beirut are considered to be seminal events in the war against terrorism.

It was the first time Islamic suicide bombers had attacked significant

American targets. This Iranian- and Syrian-instigated act of war was

pure terrorism. Our timidity to respond created an aura of impunity that

the Islamic extremists sensed and pursued all the way to the 9/11

attacks, which finally awakened America.

Suicide Attacks

The introduction of suicide truck bombs as a tactic in Beirut in 1983

proved to be an effective if heinous tool. The bottom line is that they

worked, and recent history has confirmed their cruel efficiency and huge

cost in innocent lives. These attacks were cynically planned to ensure

success for the terrorists and cause massive casualties.

The post-bombing investigation conducted by FBI Special Agent Danny

Deffenbaugh revealed computations and technical assessment of the device

(bomb) and the high explosive used-pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN).

Deffenbaugh also identified canisters of compressed butane gas contained

in the bed of the truck with the PETN. This enhancement of the

explosive, also found at the earlier U.S. embassy attack, indicated the

Iranians were trying to create a fuel-air explosive. This creates a

shocking effect with a propagation wave that produces additional heat

and takes away the oxygen twice as fast. An explosives expert stated

that this effect verified the anti-personnel purpose of the attack. It

also explained the reason why so many dead and wounded suffered severe


In describing the destructive strength of the bomb, Deffenbaugh verified

publicly what was briefed to us privately by the FBI and others-that the

immensity of the bomb precluded the necessity of the truck bomb reaching

the building. I was informed that the truck did not even have to leave

the airport access road adjacent to the western side of the BLT building

to have comparable devastation and casualties. The suicide bomb that

killed the French paratroopers did not reach their headquarters before

it detonated but still caused the collapse of the nine-story structure.

More telling was the successful suicide attack on Israeli headquarters

in Tyre, Lebanon, on 4 November 1983, just ten days after the attack on

U.S. and French peacekeepers. Even though the Israelis had none of the

restrictions of a presence mission and nothing that would hinder their

extensive intelligence capabilities, they were struck with a carbon-copy

attack ten days after our attack. It should be noted that the Israelis

had many of the defenses the Marines were criticized for not having at

Beirut International Airport. Still, the terrorist attack was

successfully carried out-killing 60 and injuring 30 more-even though the

suicide truck was halted well short of the target.

Members of the intelligence community compiled an all-sources damage

assessment after the Marine barracks bombing. In it, they studied

signals, overhead, and human intelligence and concluded the evidence was

overpowering that Iran had been behind it. An intelligence expert close

to the final assessment stated he did not know anyone who studied the

information and drew any other conclusion.

Beyond carnage, suicide bombings provide grand theater by way of

international press coverage. Since their genesis in Beirut, such

attacks have grown to becoming a weapon of choice for Shia and Sunni

alike. This tactic carries a profound psychological message of fear and

intimidation. I believe reasonable observers agree that such attacks are

very difficult to deter, and their increased usage and success reflect

the terrorists' desire for the spectacular hysteria and chaos created by

such attacks.

Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah

The Multinational Peacekeeping Force presence in Lebanon in 1982-83

undoubtedly contributed to the stability of the government of Lebanon

and saved lives. Our successes, albeit limited, were obviously worrisome

enough to the primary powerbrokers in Tehran and Damascus to compel them

to launch the suicide truck bombing operations against us. The timing,

locations, and targets of the bombings were no more coincidental than

were the sophisticated planning, magnitude, and execution of the


The choice of 23 October was significant because National Reconciliation

Talks among all key factions within the government of Lebanon were

scheduled to be held in Geneva, beginning on the 31st. Preliminary talks

were set to begin on the 24th at Beirut International Airport, where the

U.S. Multi-National Peacekeeping Force had been located for more than a


The airport site was supposed to be one of the most secure areas in

Lebanon. The Marine and the French headquarters were targeted primarily

because of who we were and what we represented. The passive nature of

the peacekeeping mission provided attractive targets that Iran and Syria

were not about to pass up. It is noteworthy that the United States

provided direct naval gunfire support-which I strongly opposed for a

week-to the Lebanese Army at a mountain village called Suq-al-Garb on 19

September and that the French conducted an air strike on 23 September in

the Bekaa Valley. American support removed any lingering doubts of our

neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to

pay in blood for this decision.

Unknown to us at the time, the National Security Agency had made a

diplomatic communications intercept on 26 September (the same date as

the cease-fire ending the September War) in which the Iranian

Intelligence Service provided explicit instructions to the Iranian

ambassador in Damascus (a known terrorist) to attack the Marines at

Beirut International Airport. The suicide attackers struck us 28 days

later, with word of the intercept stuck in the intelligence pipeline

until days after the attack.

Iran's Motivation

Looking back today, it is easier to comprehend why Iran moved a

contingent of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps into the

Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley during the height of the Iraq-Iran War in

1982-83. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion, and with Syrian

complicity, Iran established a base of operations to carry out its

strategic goals. This corps founded, financed, trained, and equipped

Hezbollah to operate as a proxy army, a force expanded today to

challenge the freely elected government of Lebanon, which cannot

control, much less disarm, Hezbollah.

Using Lebanon as a base, the force conducted border raids and rained

rocket and missile attacks on Israel. Iranian persistence and

determination has paid off handsomely in terms of regional influence,

political power, and military prowess, and they have suffered no

consequences. It is clear that their brashness and the carnage they

inflict continue to expand.

The recent revelations that Iranian weapons are killing U.S. Marines and

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should surprise no one. Conclusive

evidence has disclosed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force

has transported roadside bombs and armor-piercing "explosively formed

penetrators" (EFPs) from Iran into Iraq. Other advanced Iranian weapons

found in Iraq include the RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade, 240-mm

rockets, and perhaps the most ominous, the Misagh 1, a portable

surface-to-air missile that uses an infrared guidance system.

This influx of sophisticated weaponry has been accompanied by

intelligence revealing Iranian facilitation of travel and training

inside Iran for Iraqi insurgents. U.S. intelligence officials have

stated that Iranian complicity could not take place without approval at

the highest levels of the Iranian government.

Among the terrorist groups that Iran supports are al Qaeda, Hezbollah,

Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Three of them are Sunni groups and

are supported, among other reasons, to undercut the peace process

between Israel and the Palestinians. Shiite Iran's support and its

strategic relationship with the Sunni Wahhabi al Qaeda are especially


The relationship between Iran and al Qaeda was confirmed by the National

Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as

the 9/11 Commission. Its report highlighted Iranian involvement in the

1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, training for al Qaeda

operations against Israel and the United States, and safe-transport and

safe-haven for those operations.

War Against the United States

What continues to unfold is the debunking of the theory that an

ideological separation between the Sunnis and Shiites would prevent any

mutual cooperation in operations against a common enemy, i.e., the

United States and its allies. Evidence confirms the old adage that my

enemy's enemy is my friend.

In reality, Iran has been waging war against the United States for more

than a quarter-century, from the 1979 hostage crisis and the Marine

barracks bombing in 1983 to providing sophisticated weaponry to Sunni

and Shia insurgents in Iraq. Iranian mullahs have chosen to wage a

radically aggressive campaign to create and accelerate instability

throughout the region by using their proxies, many of whom are non-Shia.

Some examples include:

Support for Hamas to launch rockets and attacks into Israeli villages

across the Gaza Strip borders Continued building of heavily armed

Hezbollah in Lebanon to not only challenge the legitimacy of the

duly-elected government of Lebanon, but also to prepare for the

inevitable next war with Israel Supporting Syria, their lone Arab

client, in their incessant efforts to further destabilize Lebanon and

Iraq. (At last count, eight anti-Syrian Lebanese leaders, journalists,

and members of parliament have been assassinated by Syrian operatives.)

Supporting Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan against NATO forces Using the

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force to facilitate training,

equipping, and financing Shiite and Sunni extremist militias in Iraq

against U.S., Iraqi Army, and coalition forces.

A recent development revealed that Hezbollah instructors trained Shiite

militiamen in remote camps inside southern Iraq and planned some of the

most brazen attacks against U.S.-led forces.

Iran has evolved as a major player in the Middle East with growing

influence. Its proxy war with Israel, which many fail to see as only one

front in a larger war, increases Iranian popularity throughout the Arab

world. The Iranian capability to cause trouble on three fronts, on their

schedule, does not augur well for the peace process. Add to this Quds

Force links to the Taliban and Iranian weapons and sophisticated

munitions being smuggled into Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran has

positioned itself to wreak havoc and cause diversions through proxies

while avoiding retribution for their continuing bloodshed.

Connecting the Dots

In August 2005, Mustafa Mohammad-Najjar was named the new defense

minister of Iran. This position takes on new importance considering the

brazen, complex campaign Iran is waging to destabilize the region. Keep

in mind that these diversions draw attention from their primary

objective of attaining a nuclear capability.

Najjar's previous assignment as senior commander of the Islamic

Revolutionary Guard Corps earned him a reputation of ruthlessness and

ideological loyalty. In 1983, he commanded the 1,500-man expeditionary

force sent to Lebanon's Baaka Valley.

This Iranian unit provided security, planning, training, and operational

support for the dual suicide truck bombings on 23 October 1983. Najjar's

successes in these attacks, which are still celebrated in Tehran today,

led to the withdrawal of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force. The

withdrawal after the bombings, with no retribution from the United

States, became a turning point in the unbounded use of terrorism by

radical Islamic fanatics worldwide. Under his command, Najjar's corps

played a key role in the formation of the Party of God (Hezbollah) and

the education and training of Mugniyah, who reportedly lived and

operated out of Iran.

I often wonder whether Najjar was among those troops involved in the

fighting at Suq-al-Garb during the September War in 1983. The 24th

Marine Amphibious Unit's 2d Radio Detachment was intercepting, among

others, significant Farsi communications during the multi-Muslim

militia's assault on the Lebanese armed forces. The multi-confessional

Lebanese army held together and successfully defended its position

which, in my opinion, led the decision makers in Tehran and Damascus to

change their tactics from conventional attacks to the shadows of

terrorism. Whether or not he was present at Suq-al-Garb, Najjar's

position as commander of the Revolutionary Guard detachment supports the

notion that he would have wanted to be there. My guess is that he was.

As the Iranian defense minister, he is most certainly involved in global

terrorist attacks and the acquisition of nuclear weaponry. It is more

probable than possible that Iran will use its favorite proxy, Hezbollah,

to carry out future attacks against the West, including the United

States. Najjar's long association with the now-deceased terrorist

mastermind Mugniyah lends credence to this. We could well find

ourselves, in our own country, the recipient of a weapon of mass

destruction in an attack planned and executed by some of the same

players who carried out the 1983 suicide attacks in Beirut. Some of

these dots could very well connect.

Another dot emerged shortly after the announcement of Najjar's

ascendency to defense minister. A close confidant and fellow alumnus of

the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Lebanon contingent was appointed by

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to lead the corps' ground

forces. Brigadier General Ahmad Kazemi, whose previous assignment was

commander of the Republican Guard's air force, was responsible for the

development of solid-fuel technology. He was also responsible for

research and production of Shahab missiles, including the Shahab-4, with

a projected range of 3,000 kilometers and capable of carrying a nuclear

warhead that could reach the heart of Europe.

The Story Continues

Today, Lebanon is again being used as a battlefield for foreign forces

to settle their disagreements. The state-within-a-state that the

Palestine Liberation Organization created in the late 1970s has been

replaced. The Iranian model, establishing Hezbollah as a proxy, has

proved to be more successful. Hezbollah's development and growth suggest

that in 1983, Iran and Syria had a long-range strategy to increase their

influence in the region and the world. The operational and training base

established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that year remains an

active hub of activity a quarter-century later.

This 23 October, when families and friends gather for this year's

remembrance, will again remind us of those dedicated peacekeepers who

never came home. They were denied the joy of raising a family, pursuing

their dreams, and enjoying the blessings of America. Amid the renewals

of friendship, hugs, and tears, there always lingers an undercurrent of

deep sorrow and anguish that hasn't lessened 25 years later. The

peacekeepers' valor and sacrifice will never be forgotten.


Colonel Geraghty served over 25 years in the Marine Corps and seven

years in the Special Operations Group of the Central Intelligence

Agency. He commanded the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut, Lebanon,

during the suicide truck bombings on 23 October 1983. He currently

resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

Fidelity above all else, except honor.

Your Obt.Svt.

SgtMaj t sends

Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) Senior

Enlisted Advi