Remembering Beirut Bombing.
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.
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
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.
BEIRUT 25 YEARS LATER: WE CAME IN PEACE
PROCEEDINGS | COLONEL TIMOTHY J. GERAGHTY | OCTOBER 01, 2008 In a
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
SgtMaj t sends
Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) Senior