On October 27, 1983, four days after the explosion at the BLT building, the press spokesman for the marines in Beirut, Major Robert Jordan, released information and diagrams which he said detailed exactly how the attack on the BLT took place.
Major Jordan stated that the large Mercedes truck circled the parking lot south of the targeted building twice, accelerating to pick up speed. Those accounts of the incident set the speed of the truck between 40 and 60 miles per hour. It was reported that, after the driver stopped circling and headed north, he went straight through a barbed wire fence, continued between guard posts Nos. 6 and 7, and burst through an iron gate, then drove over or pushed aside a large pipe, smashed through a sandbag blast wall, and entered the lobby of the building where the truck exploded.
The subcommittee during its inquiry found the initial information, including diagrams, released by Marine Corps officials in Beirut to be erroneous, misleading and often contradictory.
General P.X. Kelley, Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified before the Committee on Armed Services on November 1 and 2, 1983. This was shortly after his day-and-a-half visit with the marines in Beirut and eight days after the bombing of the BLT building. General Kelley testified as follows:
At daybreak, a five-ton Mercedes truck--that is roughly the size of a large dump truck, and of a type which is very commonly seen on a day-to-day basis in Beirut International Airport--entered the public parking lot adjacent to the four-story steel-reenforced and sandbagged building which housed th elements of our Battalion Landing Team headquarters. After making a complete circle of the parking lot for acceleration, and while travelling at high speed now estimated to be close to 60 miles an hour, this truck crashed through the outer defensive barbed wire emplacement, moved at high speed between two sandbagged sentry posts, passed through an iron gate, jumped over a sewer pipe which had been placed as an obstacle to impede the forward movement of the vehicle and plowed through a sandbag barrier. It then hit with precision a four-foot wide passenger entry into the lobby where its cargo, estimated now by intelligence agencies to be 5,000 pounds of high explosives, detonated.
The entire event, which can be best described as the delivery of a suicidal driver of a 5,000-pound truck-bomb at very high speed, took approximately six seconds. Rough calculations indicate it would require a massive concrete wall to stop a vehicle of this weight and travelling at this speed.
The Investigations Subcommittee delegation that visited Beirut determined that many of the details of the attack upon the BLT as related by General Kelley were erroneous.
None of the eyewitnesses to the bombing incident saw the truck make any loops. In fact, only one saw the truck before it broke through the barbed wire emplacement which is essentially a personnel barrier. Captain France testified that he doubted the truck made a loop, while Colonel Geraghty stated that he did not know since he had not seen the truck.
With regard to the speed of the truck no witness mentioned 60 miles per hour. The estimates of the witnesses varied. However, all placed the speed of the truck between 25 and 50 miles per hour. The truck did crash through the barbed wire and pass between the two sentry posts. Both guards were armed with M-16 rifles. However, their weapons were unloaded, at sling arms (borne on their shoulders), and their magazines were in their ammo pouches. None of the three guards in the area was able to unsling his weapon, remove the magazine from the ammo pouch, insert the magazine, chamber a round, aim and fire at the truck. The truck then passed through an iron gate which, according to the eyewitnesses, was always open. Only Captain France stated that the gates were normally closed. Colonel Geraghty indicated that the gates were closed a lot. He indicated that they were probably open during the day and closed at night. Evidence gathered by the delegation and examinations of the gate suggest that it was open at the time of the attack.
With regard to jumping over a "sewer pipe" which had been placed as an obstacle to impede the forward movement of the vehicle, the testimony indicated that there was not a single long pipe as illustrated in the Marine Corps diagrams. In fact, there were three steel pipes each about 30 feet in length and 12 inches in diameter. Two of the pipes were parallel to the BLT and had a large gap between them. The third was placed perpendicular to the others. At times there was a bicycle rack-type of gate in the gap between the two pipes parallel to the BLT.
Colonel Geraghty testified that the pipes were placed there for security and protection against car bombs. However, all other witnesses stated that the pipes were placed in front of the BLT for traffic and parking purposes. In any event, the pipes were not filled with cement and were not anchored to the ground. They were empty and the eyewitnesses stated that, if hit, they would move.
The subcommittee delegation that visited Beirut was told by all eyewitnesses who presented testimony that none of them spoke to General kelley during his visit. The delegation was unable to substantiate the sources who provided General Kelley with his understanding of how the attack on the BLT took place.
Another discrepancy in the testimony of General Kelley concerned the two sentries at posts No. 6 and No. 7. When asked if the guards were killed, both Generals Kelley and Mead stated they were. Both of the sentries were located by the subcommittee delegation and provided testimony concerning the attack.
The Committee on Armed Services was also misinformed concerning the decision to refuse Israel's offer of medical assistance. Captain Lewis Mantel of the Navy Surgeon General's Office testified
that Captain France made the decision based upon advice from his senior surgeon. He stated:
Captain France was very certain and very definitive in his statement to me that the advice he sought and received was from the senior surgeon present with his task force, a general surgeon trained in triage matters and trained to provide him the best medical advice. Captain France did solicit that advice.
Captain France, in testimony to the subcommittee, stated that he made the decision without consulting the medical staff. This was corroborated by both medical doctors who stated that their advice was never solicited.
Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans, Policy and Operations, Headquarters. U.S. Marine Corps, testified before the Committee on Armed Services on October 25. General Trainor was questioned concerning a television news report that a marine stated that he had spoken to the guard on post No. 7 and was told that the guard did not have his weapon loaded and could not fire at the truck.
When General Trainor was asked about that news report he stated that it was his understanding that weapons were loaded. General Trainor stated he was concerned about the television report and had sent a message to Beirut on October 25 seeking clarification.
The message General Trainor received on October 28 (after his testimony to the committee) stated:
Policy for magazines in weapons was that all external posts (those at main entrance to the compound and selected outposts) would have magazines inserted into weapons, but no round chambered unless threatened. posts within compound would not have magazines inserted. But magazines would be readily available. Two posts to south of BLT Headquarters were internal posts whose field of fire covered a large and busy civilian parking lot.
This message substantiated the television report in that post No. 7 was considered to be within the compound. Special orders were given to all guards on internal posts that their weapons were not to be loaded. However, the testimony given the full committee led members to believe that all guards were to have their weapons loaded. The message General Trainor received was not conveyed to the subcommittee until it heard of its existence and requested it in December.
The subcommittee believes that the initial testimony provided the full committee was often inaccurate, misleading and erroneous. Thus, the first explanation provided the Congress and the American people presented a false picture as to what actually took place.
[Did this teach the Committee a lesson? Perhaps next time they can wait for a proper investigation to take place before rushing to judgment (or at least rushing to the cameras). Yeah, right...HyperWar]
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