“So few know or remember what we did in Beirut.”
-Sgt. Joe Chowske- 24th Marine Amphibious Unit
Thirty-five years ago at approximately 0622 on Sunday, 23 Oct. 1983, a terrorist bomb
destroyed the Battalion Landing Team (BLT) headquarters building in the Marine
Amphibious Unit compound at Beirut International Airport. The catastrophic attack
took the lives of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers and wounded more than 100 others.
The bombing was carried out by one lone terrorist driving a yellow Mercedes Benz
stake-bed truck that accelerated through the public parking lot south of the BLT
headquarters building, where it exploded. The truck drove over the barbed wire
obstacle, passed between two Marine guard posts without being engaged by fire,
entered an open gate, passed around one sewer pipe barrier and between two
others flattened the Sergeant of the Guard’s sandbagged booth at the building’s
entrance penetrated the lobby of the building and detonated while the majority
of the occupants slept. The force of the explosion [12,000 pounds] ripped the building
from its foundation. The building then imploded upon itself. Almost all the occupants
were crushed or trapped inside the wreckage.
Hezbollah and the Iranians were perfecting a new tactic, one which would cause
such destruction and hurting numerous countries as other terrorist groups sought
to copy and modify this new way to attack a stronger enemy. On Sunday, October 23,
1983, at 0230 a.m. President Reagan was awakened with the horrific news that a
suicide bomber had driven a truck bomb into the building housing the Marines in
Later that same day President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive
109 which outlined how the US would respond to the Lebanon Crisis. In the
document, President Reagan directed that the US Ambassador in Beirut should
schedule a meeting with President Gemayel and the Lebanese government and
that Ambassador Robert Dillion should “formally request that the government
of Lebanon sever all diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran that
was behind this attack using its proxy Hezbollah.
Thirty-five years later the world is still dealing with the Hezbollah/Iranian tactic of
truck bombings. As Thomas Friedman, the author of “From Beirut to Jerusalem
“So it was with the Marines in Beirut-good, milk-faced boys who stepped into the middle of a passion-filled conflict, of whose history they were totally innocent and whose venom they could not even imagine.”
Take Sgt. Joe Chowske’s words to heart today and remember those Peacekeepers.
Rember those young Marines and what they sacrificed for peace and their country
thirty-five years ago in Beirut.