Chapter 3
Beirut II--The Mission of Presence
29 September--1 November 1982

As the MARG ships bearing the Marines to the Italian ports of Naples and Taormina neared their destinations--where there would be liberty for all personnel, interrupted only by normal training and necessary ship's maintenance--the MAU and Phirbron staffs prepared for their next task--conducting Operation Display Determination 82 in Saros Bay, Turkey, on 25 September. The Marines also spruced up for an impending visit by their Commandant, General Barrow.

A day away from Italy, however, on 14 September, all hands were shocked to learn of the assassination of President-Elect Bashir Gemayel, who, just five days earlier, had reviewed a combined MNF honor guard and had visited with Colonel Mead. The Americans perceived that a return commitment to Beirut was immminent. This perception was sharpened by the news of the massacres on 16 September in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in west Beirut.

These two developments impelled the new President, Amin Gemayel, broth of the slain Bashir, to request the return of the Multi-National Force to ensure the safety of the population of West Beirut until the Lebanese Armed Forces were able to undertake this mission on their own. In addition, the MNF presence in Beirut would facilitate the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Beirut to the south and east.1

The MARG was ordered to return to the eastern Mediterranean to await further orders, and early in the morning of 22 September, it steamed from Naples (Manitowoc for Taormina) for the waters off Beirut. The next day, 32d MAU Executive Officer Lieutenant Colonel Smith was flown from the Guam to Larnaca and then on to Beirut to function once more as the MAU representative to the Multi-National Force Liaison Committee, which again included the two Marines from EUCOM, Colonel Sehulster and lieutenant Colonel Gaucher.2

While underway, the MARG was visited on 26-27 September by Vice Admiral Rowden and General Barrow, who in a ceremony on the Guam, presented Navy Unit Commendations to Phirbron 4 and the 32d MAU for their performance during the PLO evacuation.3 During the course of the short sea trip to Beirut, the Sixth Fleet was alerted to the possible participation of the 32d MAU in a Lebanon Multi-National Force peacekeeping mission.

Of particular interest in the document establishing the U.S. peacekeeping mission was the statement concerning rules of engagement. The 32d MAU was told that if its assigned area or lines were infiltrated by units other than those of the Lebanese Armed Forces, the intruders were to be warned that they were in an unauthorized area and could proceed no further. If the intruders failed to withdraw, the MAU commander was to be informed of the incident and would decide what further action was to be taken. Only in Marines and any accompanying Lebanese Armed Forces were fired upon,, could the Marines return fire to insure their safety and that of the Lebanese. Finally, the Sixth Fleet commander was to be prepared to extract American forces from Beirut, if it became necessary.4

The question of the MAU providing other than internal security (i.e., other than for its own positions) was addressed early on and had to be faced as the Marines' mission unfolded. Because of the low threat initially confronting the Marines in Lebanon, the anticipated early capability of the Lebanese Armed Forces to provide security, and the provision in the initial deployment order to be prepared to withdraw when directed, there was no need to change the overall mission, the concept of operations, or the rules of engagement until September 1983.5 As the Long Commission noted later, there ". . . was no perceived need to change the USMNF role in response to the development of a combat situation, since USCinCEur had been tasked to protect U.S. forces and, on order, to be prepared to extract U.S. forces. Under the circumstances of the combat resulting for USMNF personnel, NCA [National Command Authority, i.e., the President] would be consulted concerning withdrawal."6

The commander of each MAU deployed to Beirut made certain all of his troops were thoroughly briefed and fully cognizant of the rules of engagement.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Habib was once more in the midst of negotiations and in a most difficult and trying mission--attempting to develope a plan agreeable to the governments of Lebanon, Israel, France, and Italy. From this plan evolved the 32d MAU's mission which was to provide ". . . a presence in Beirut, that would in turn help establish the stability necessary for the Lebanese government to regain control of


Copyright 1983. Dwane Powell. Raleigh News and Observer. Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

their capital. This mission required the 32d MAU to occupy positions in the vicinity of Beirut International Airport and establish and maintain close continuous liaison with the French, Italian, and Lebanese forces."7

During the 18 months in which Marines were deployed to Lebanon, this mission was not much changed. As the Long Commission later concluded: "The 'presence' mission wa not interpreted the same by all levels of the chain of command and perceptual differences regarding the mission, including the responsibility of the USMNF [U.S. multinational force; the Marine Amphibious Unit] for the security of Beirut International Airport, should have been recognized and corrected by the chain of command."8

It was basically assumed that the Marines were going into a permissive environment, and for that reason, the mission, rules of engagement, and concept of operations, as well as force structure, were designed to maintain a balance between political and military considerations and requirements. The MAU's location at the airport was considered to be the least threatened position of those held by MNF units and of serving both political military necessities. The French and Italians would occupy far more dangerous areas, for the former were to be located in the city of Beirut proper, with its narrow streets, teeming rabbit warren-like alleys, and always-heavy traffic, the best possible locale for terrorist activities. Even more ominous was the area assigned to the Italians, south of the city. It was chock-a-block with the ruins of the still heavily occupied refugee camps of Sabra, Shatila, and Burj al Barahinah, where smoldering hate, resentment, and hopelessness lingered.

As the MAU once again neared Beirut, the American mission of "presence" was repeatedly discussed and analyzed by Colonel Mead and his staff. The concept of "presence," as such, was not taught in any of the military schools Marines have attended. Perhaps closest to this concept was the commonly accepted tenet in international law of "interposition," which results when a major power provides military assistance in the form of troops at the request of a legally constituted and established government unable to protect foreign citizens and property. Certainly that was the basis for Marine presence in Central American countries during the 1920s and 1930s, Lebanon in 1958, and Santo Domingo more recently in 1965. However, this was not quite the case in 1982, and Colonel Mead determined that once ashore, he would establish hasty defenses at the airport and collocate his troops as soon as possible


with the Lebanese Armed Forces to demonstrate visibly U.S. intention to support the government of Lebanon.

Beirut II, as this second deployment was dubbed, would be considerably unlike Beirut I. In positions at the airport, the Marines would be in the midst of an area densely populated with Shiite Muslims, who had close religious ties with Iran and venerated the Ayatolla Khomeini. The landing force would be expanded to 1,200 Marines, who, while landing in a friendly environment, would still face the dual threat of individual acts of terrorism and a considerable number of unexploded munitions.9

The airport area, scene of heavy fighting, was littered with ". . . literally tens of thousands of pieces of unexploded munitions of 15 types from 19 different countries that had accumulated over the previous 8 years of fighting."10 Since the earlier personnel augmentation had returned to stateside units, Colonel Mead called once again upon FLFMLant to provide him with combat engineer, interrogator/translator, explosive ordnance disposal, public affairs, preventative medicine, ANGLICO, and intelligence detachments. Again, it took less than 36 hours for these to join the MAU.

In conducting a map reconnaissance of the positions he was to occupy at the airport, Colonel Mead soon determined that he needed the high ground approximately five kilometers east of the airport to guarantee the MAU's safety should the situation ashore begin to deteriorate. However militarily sound the rationale for this plan, Colonel Mead soon learned the political realities of life in the Middle East. In the diplomatic discussions leading to the reinsertion of the Multi-National Force, Ambassador Draper and Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon mut agreed to permit the Israeli forces to use the Old Sidon Road for resupplying their troops in the Shouf mountains east of the airport. The road just about paralleled the eastern perimeter of the airport and ran southwest to northeast between the airport and below the heights Colonel Mead wanted to occupy. If the Marines took up positions there, it would create a politically unacceptable perception that the United States was protecting Israeli resupply routes. Thus the Americans would be looked upon as anti-Muslim and certainly less that neutral with respect to the Israelis--an image completely opposite from that which the Marines wanted to portray.

In the week between the time Task Forces 61/62 left Naples and the day they arrived in Beirut, a large joint service public affairs team, headed by a Navy captain from EUCOM, arrived to help the MAU and Phibron with press relations. Members of the 32-man team were sent to each of the Phibron ships to brief the Marines and sailors on what to expect from the large media representation expected at Beirut, and how to answer questions.11

In addition to briefing the Marines n press relations, the BLT operations officer, Major Raymond Cole, prepared and videotaped an orientation lecture to be shown on all the Phibron ships to all Marines. in this presentation, he discussed the upcoming mission, what it would be like to go ". . . into that kind of environment, some of the do's and don'ts, [while undertaking] permissive operations. . . ."12

Of prime consideration at this time is the fact that the rules of engagement received from higher headquarters were written in such constructed legalese that it was necessary to simplify them so that the lowest ranking Marine could readily and thoroughly understand what they meant. Said Lieutenant Colonel Blankenship, "Basically, it was minimal force necessary . . . we did not have magazines in, that was the decision that was made. Fortunately, as it turned out, it was a very right decision." He continued, "Minimal force necessary and we did have a right to self-protection . . . we told our Marines, 'If a guy shoots at you and you feel it is directed fire . . . then you use minimal force necessary to take care of the situation. If he is shooting at you with small arms, you can return the fire with small arms. . . . Just because a man is shooting at you with small arms doesn't mean that you can call in naval gunfire on them or a flight of F-14s with napalm or something like that."13

One of the preconditions for landing the Marines in September was that all Israeli forces had to be south of the airport and out of the MAU's assigned are of responsibility. Because this condition was not met on time, the Marine landing wax delayed until mid-day, 29 September. The original MAU plan called for a typical Marine landing--two companies via air and one via surface with all supporting arms--into the vicinity of Beirut International AIrport over what was then called Black Beach and subsequently renamed Green Beach.14 Then the Marines would push forward, clearing the airfield to the foothills, which included the high ground at Kfar Shima and Shuwayfat, tying in with the Presidential Palace and the Ministry of Defense in the Baadba area.15

Major Jack L. Farmer, Assistant MAU Operations Officer in Beiruts I and II, recalled that the staff was concerned whether its plan would work, for in considering the MAU's strength at that time, Marine lines


U.S. Navy Photo
32d MAU commander Col James M. Mead watches as his marines return to Lebanon on 29 September 1982 on board their LVTP-7 amphibious vehicles.

would be stretched out very thinly if the mission wa a tactical one of defense against a hostile force. That the mission was diplomatic rather than tactical meant that reinforcement by an additional BLT was unnecessary. The MAU determined that it could accomplish its mission with the BLT and the MSSG augmentation it already owned, and that it had enough Marines to establish strong-points along a general trace going from Baabda, through Kfar Shima, Shuywayfat, and to the south of the airport at Khaldah. Additionally, the MAU would begin foot and motorized patrols to satisfy the requirements of its presence mission. Based upon political considerations and the diplomatic climate at the time, the MAU did not want to give the impression that it was securing the Old Sidon Road to protect the Israeli Force. As a result, the MAU reduced its perimeter by settling in west of the road and pulling in closer to the airport.16

It was decided to restrict the Marines to a location in the vicinity of and to the west of the unused railroad tracks at the southeastern portion of the airport perimeter, further reducing its lines. Actually, the reduction gave the MAU better internal lines of communication but it did raise subsequent questions by the Israelis about where the Marine lines actually were. The military importance of the high ground to the east of the Old Sidon Road was reiterated to Ambassador Habib and his diplomatic assistants by Lieutenant Colonel Smith, who conducted a reconnaissance in the general area together with the

Photo courtesy of Claude Salhani
A 32d MAU troop leader posts his Marines on the edge of Beirut International Airport, on the outskirts of Burj al Barahinah refugee camp shortly after their return to Lebanon.


U.S. Navy Photo
Capt Richard C. Zilmer leads his Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2/8 Marines ashore from the landing ship Saginaw (LST 1188) at the port of Beirut on 29 September 1982.

embassy staff.17 While Habib may have recognized the validity of the Marines' rationale to hold the heights, he still refused to permit the MAU to occupy them.

The territory the MAU was to occupy on the eastern portion of the perimeter also held built-up areas, in which there were located one Christian-oriented village--Kfar Shima--and one pro-Druze/Muslim village--Shuwayfat. Subsequently, after December 1982, these two villages were the locale of a considerable amount of the factional fighting of the period. Major Farmer believed that proximity of the villages to the Marine lines may have caused the MAU problems of internal security. On the other hand, he concluded ". . . our presence there may well have been a stabilizing factor which would have allowed a more comprehensive solution, at least in the context of those two villages," and would have prevented the problems which finally arose with the Israelis in that area getting caught in ambushes along the Old Sidon Road, resulting in subsequent confrontations between the Marines and the Israelis.18

Putting plans into action, at 1158 local time* on the 29th of September, the Manitowoc tied up at the dock in the port of Beirut and Colonel Mead landed with his staff and Company F. The Marines were met by Ambassador Dillon, Lebanese officials, and a horde of media.19 The Saginaw docked at 1340 to unload the vehicles which would carry the Marines to the airport, and at 1400, the first of the helicopter-borne troops landed at the airport. By 1700, all three rifle companies and other scheduled personnel and equipment were ashore. All organic firepower was brought ashore with the exception of artillery and tanks, which remained on board their shipping for the entire duration of Beirut II.

The next day, 30 September, the Secretary of Defense released the following message from the President:

At the request of the Government of Lebanon, I have ordered the Landing Force, Sixth Fleet, to return to Lebanon as a part of the Multi-National Force. I well recognize the requirements and demands that this places upon you-- the members of the fleet. I also know the steadfastness and devotion to duty you have displayed throughout the ordeal of this tortured land. The cause of peace--and the interests of our nation--are being well served by all of you who go down to the sea in ships. Be assured that you have the unending gratitude of all who love freedom. God Bless You.
Ronald Reagan.20

Two other events of not occurred on the 30th. The

* Unless otherwise noted, all times stated in this monograph will be local time.


USMC Photo by Ssgt Robert E. Kline
Green Beach is where Marines and their equipment landed in Lebanon first during the 1958 emergency and then 14 years later, when they gave "presence" in Beirut, 1982-1984.

first was a Multi-National Force welcoming ceremony when President Amin Gemayel reviewed and spoke to representative groups of U.S., French, and Italian troops.* The second events was sobering for it marked the first Marine death in lebanon. From the time of its landing in country on 29 September and throughout its first deployment, the 32d MAU continually conducted an ordnance and disposal operation. While engaged in clearing the airfield, Corporal David L. Reagan was killed, and three other Marine engineers wounded, when a bomblet exploded. The casualties were quickly evacuated to the Guam, where they were treated by a special Camp Lejeune medical team attached to Phibron 4.

Also on 30 September, Green Beach was cleared of mines, but not completely of bomblets. nevertheless, Colonel Mead ordered his amtracs ashore as well as the Service Support Group and the Navy beachmaster unit. The next day, the rifle companies began moving into their assigned positions to the south and east of the airport, while the Marines in the northernmost positions linked up with the Italians. Analysis of the terrain indicated that the 32d MAU should establish some forward observation and listening posts collocated with those manned by the Lebanese Armed Forces. The MAU also decided to dig positions to the rear of these posts, closer to the airport, and the runways, to be occupied when and if Marines were attacked by a hostile force.21

The forward posts were located at key intersections of the nearby road network surrounding the airport--primarily those access roads which ran from the Old Sidon Road to the airport. A small string of checkpoints was located due east of the airport, with the

* The initial French input to the Multi-National Force was comprised of a staff from the 11th Airborne Division and units from the 9th Marine Infantry Division, 2d Foreign Legion Airborne Battalion, 3d Marine Airborne Division, 9th Headquarters Support Battalion, and 17th Airborne Engineers Division, all commanded by Brigadier General Jacques Granger. The Italian unit initially deployed in Beirut was the 2d Bersaglieri Battalion "Govelo," which returned on 27 September with 300 paratroopers from the "Folgore" Airborne Brigade (two companies from the 1st Carabinieri Airborne Battalion "Tuscania," and one company from the 9th Airborne Assault Battalion "Col Moschin"). These units were reinforced by additional personnel from the San Marcos Naval Infantry Battalion, commanded by Commander Peirluigi Sambo, Italian Navy. Both Commander Sambo and his battalion were well known and respected b y marines who had conducted combined landing exercises in the Mediterranean with the Italians. in overall command of the Italian MNF unit was Brigadier General Franco Angioni. For a complete order of battle of the foreign MNF units, see Appendix C.


U.S. Navy Photo
Marines sweep the Green Beach area for mines and unexploded ordnance to secure it prior to the landing of the rest of the 32d MAU in September 1982.

first post in the south subsequently designated Checkpoint 76. It was located on the access road that ran from Old Sidon Road to the airport past a Pepsi Cola bottling plant. Three other Marine posts were located with Lebanese Armed Forces positions, which ran all the way up north to the vicinity of the small Shiite village of Hay es Salaam (called "Hooterville" by the Marines) and on to Lebanese University, where the MAU had its forwardmost-deployed company set up in a building on campus. Here the Marines would be involved in civic action projects as well as giving "presence." As Major Farmer recalled:

It was along this section of our perimeter that we had the most problems with the israeli Defense Forces, especially when [beginning in December 1982] [Israeli] convoys [were] ambushed on the Old Sidon Road and they would return fire.22

Southwest and west of the university were a string of outposts beginning at the airport itself. They were lightly manned due to the fact that they were near the Palestinian refugee village of Burj al Barahinah, a largely built-up area which did not lend itself to the establishment of forward outposts. Besides, that sector of the Marine area of operation was partially patrolled, and, in some cases, manned by the Italians at static checkpoints. The MAU maintained close coordination with the Italian-manned checkpoints, which were actually strong points located on the northern perimeter itself. After the Marine artillery was landed in a later MAU deployment,23 battery positions were set up in the northern perimeter in an area originally controlled by the Italians. There were also several U.S.-Lebanese checkpoints in the Beirut-airport terminal highway, including the main circle road next to the Mid-East Airlines building.

Further to the west was a randomly manned Marine position at the northern end of the north-south runway, and still another one located on the beach, where the MSSG landing support party and the beachmaster unit were located. These positions were maintained during the entire Marine stay in Lebanon. Between the beach position and the airport was a coastal highway which ran from Beirut down through Khaldah and then into the Old Sidon Road, going down to the city of Sidon in the south. The MAU could not cut off traffic on this highway or the airport highway without first coordinating with the Lebanese Armed Forces, for a disruption of these two routes would cause the Lebanese government domestic problems. However, during high threat situation--such as the terrorist attack on an Italian motorized patrol later in the deployment as well as a grenade attack on one of the Marine foot patrols--the MAU did close the roads.

One highly visible post, really an interior guard post, was established at the head of the road leading off from the airport highway and post the MAU headquarters and the MSSG area down to the airport facilities. "We later named it 'Fort Apache' because of the design. Subsequently, sandbagged tar barrels were erected in April 1983, at the time of the embassy bombing, to counter terrorist threats."24

The Marines dug in in the conventional manner at the posts established around the perimeter. "I think we filled some 200,000 sandbags in 30 days, and built some pretty fancy defensive positions, particularly on the southern part of the airstrip. . . ."25

The MAU headquarters itself was located in the administrative area of the airport. Beirut had an active international airport which, in the two-week period prior to the 23 October 1983 bombing of the BLT building, serviced an average of 35 flights and 2,400 passengers. daily.26 Approximately 1,000 civilians were employed at the airport at this time and some 3,000 civilian and Lebanese military vehicles entered and left the BIA area every day.

The headquarters of the 32d MAU, and of those MAUs that succeeded it, was located in a two-story reinforced concrete building, which had formerly


Map No. 2: The zones of the Multi-National Force in September 1982.


USMC Photo by Sgt Kevin D. Dewey
Aerial view of the Beirut International Airport administrative building used to house the Marine Amphibious Unit headquarters in 1982-1983. Note sandbagged vehicle bays.

housed the airports. fire fighting school facilities. The ground floor of the building held vehicle bays, some offices, and ann utility room. The MAU commander's office and sleeping quarters were on the second floor. The ground-floor vehicle bays had metal doors and served initially as sleeping quarters for MAU staff officers and staff NCOs. A ground floor room at the end of the building was used as a club for the officers, staff noncommissioned officers, visiting journalists, and VIPs. During Colonel Mead's two tours in Lebanon, this facility was dubbed "Large James' Tavern."27

The windows of the second floor offices had been blown out during the earlier fighting and they, as well as all exposed openings, were protected by sandbag walls. The roof, which could be reached by an exterior ladder, served the Marines as an antenna farm.

Immediately across the road from the MAU headquarters was the headquarters of the MSSG, It occupied a single-story, steel reinforced concrete building, whose exposed openings were also protected by sandbags.

The BLT occupied a bombed-out, fire-damaged, four-story reinforced concrete building, southwest of the MAU headquarters. Before the Israeli invasion, the exteriors of the second through the fourth floors held large plate glass windows. By the time the Marines arrived, all windows had been damaged or blown out, and when the BLT Marines moved in, they filled the windowless gaps with an assortment of plywood, plastic sheeting, screen wire, and sandbags. The ground floor was a large open area, which the Marines enclosed with and extensive amount of barbed wire and sandbags. In the center of the building was an atrium, which in turn, was covered with louvered panels that allowed cooling and illumination as well as protection from the elements. Concrete stairwells were at the east and west ends of the inner court. This building had been successively occupied by the Government of Lebanon Aviation Administration Bureau, the PLO, and the Syrians, who used it as a hospital. When BLT 2/8 landed in September 1982, it set up its command post in this structure.

Along the airport road fence immediately to the west of the BLT building, several guard posts were established and sandbagged in. Along the fence also were two amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs or LVT-7s) which were used together as a mechanized command post by Lieutenant Colonel Johnston and successive BLT commanders. South of the BLT building was a


blacktopped parking lot, where there was overflow parking for travelers and airport employees. The Marines took up the northernmost half of this area as an additional security buffer zone, and set in a barbed wire fence to divide it. They also sandbagged two bunkers for use as manned sentry posts. The bunkers couldn't be dug in because the parking lot had a macadam surface. Later a gate was put in to control vehicle access to the front of the BLT building.

Early on, the Marines at the checkpoints dug regular chest-high fighting holes, which were also sandbagged and rigged with overhead cover. "The main protection that we were trying to obtain here initially was from small-arms fire and overhead variable time fragmentation [ordnance] which might be used against the troops."28

Meanwhile, the Political/Military Committees for Beirut II were functioning differently from the way they did for Beirut I. During Beirut I, the Multi-National Force was assigned specific tasks, including evacuation of the PLO. Beirut II operations, on the other hand, were characterized by a lack of specific military tasking beyond that of military presence in specific operational areas. Ambassador Habib personally provided overall coordination and planning for the MNF during the first deployment. During the second, however, ". . . in his absence, no specific individual provided the same degree of overall coordination and direction. As a result, the French, Italian, and U.S. contingents of the MNF conducted operations in their respective areas in accordance with directions received from the national authorities of each nation."29

Chaired by the Lebanese Armed Forces G-3, the Military Committee met daily from 1100 to 1200, and was comprised of representatives of each MNF contingent and the LAF general staff. As in the first deployment, there were no Israeli Defense Force representatives on the committee, for all contact and coordination with the Israelis was conducted by the Government of Lebanon or through diplomatic channels. Actually, the Military Committee functioned as no more than a conduit for the flow of information, rather than as a central point for coordinating military activities. During the entire period of Beirut II, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, the MAU executive officer, was the MAU representative to the committee.

Little has been said so far about HMM-261 operations. Except for a CH-46 based at the airport for use in emergency medical evacuations, the entire squadron remained board the Guam. In any case, not all the aircraft were needed ashore, where they would have

USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline
The reinforced concrete MAU Service Group headquarters building at Beirut International Airport. To the left (west) is the Beirut-Airport highway guarded by the LAF.


provided a tempting target for terrorists. In addition to providing logistical support to TFs 61/62, the Marine helicopters kept busy operating the "Cammie Cab Company," ferrying Ambassador Habib and his associates.

During the period 29 September-1 November, the squadron flew 888 hours with a helicopter availability rate of 92 percent. The Marine pilots transported 7,011 passengers and hauled 1,139,090 pounds of cargo.30

The initial logistical support for Beirut II was provided through the Seaborne Mobile Logistics System. Essentially, this encompassed the seabased warehousing of MAU supplies, which would be sent ashore on call. Although this system worked well for operations ashore of two weeks' duration or less, it couldn't support longer ones.31 The MAU Service Support Group handled all MAU logistics requirements. In addition, it set up two shower units ashore, a water point to provide water, and a laundry unit.32 The MSSG was also responsible for maintaining all MAU group equipment, as well as for setting up a 30-bed hospital ashore if needed. Major Barnetson's command included two dental units, which were sent ashore. The MSSG was also responsible for all shore party operations; for distributing all supplies which landed over Green Beach, as well as those which arrived by air; and distribution of rations to all hands.33

Of all the many media "color" stories which came out of Beirut during this deployment, the ones concerning the feeding of Marines stand out. According to the reporters, the Marines were issued only C-rations as their mainstay, while the French were dining a la haute cuisine, with coq-au-vin and the like for their main courses; and the Italians had tables laden with several types of pasta, meats, and sauces. On the tables of both the French and the Italians were bottles of wine. All that appeared to be missing were candlelight and violins. A story that the news and television reporters did not file was about the high rate of dysentery suffered by the French and Italians, and the relatively low rate of gastroenteritis amongst the Marines. Major Barnetson said, "Dysentery among the Marines was higher in Naples than it was in Beirut because in Beirut we ate C-rations."34 In addition, the 32d MAU had studied closely the lessons learned from the 1958 deployment on Lebanon. Initially, C-rations were alternated with MREs (meals-read-for-eating),35 a relatively new series of foil-packed rations which the Marines liked because of their menu variety and because they were less bulky than the canned C-rations to carry in the field. As operations ashore progressed, the Phibron ships provided the Marines with one hot meal a day, and soon tow. In addition, good-hearted souls in the United States took pity on what they perceived as starving Marines, and sent thousands of frozen hamburgers and burritos to Lebanon. When possible, these were thawed and heated on the ships and distributed ashore.

In reviewing its activities in October 1982, the MAU reported, "Our efforts [to create an environment of stability by our presence] were successful as order was quickly restored and the confidence of the population gained to such an extent that rebuilding of homes and businesses commenced almost immediately."35 For the first time in a number of years it was relatively peaceful in Beirut. There was some slight Marine concern about the Lebanese Army sweeps of west Beirut which invariably provoked large demonstrations by the Palestinian population north of the MAU positions, particularly at the site of a mosque just north of the airport. Marines were never directly fired upon by the Lebanese troops, but during Beirut II, the Marines received "errant" LAF small arms fire, generally activated by the Palestinian demonstrations.

Marine relations at this time with the Muslims who lived near the MAU area were noteworthy. The Muslims ". . . waved to, slapped hands with every Marine with whom they came into contact. They returned the wide smiles of our proud young peacekeepers. They cried!"37

During the remainder of October, the Marines continued to harden their positions and make "quality of life " improvements wherever possible. To facilitate a closer relationship with the other members of the MNF, 32d MAU Marines participated in several sporting events with them.

There was considerable American and international press interest in the Marine deployment, as evidenced by the plethora of stories filed from Beirut by the writing press and hundreds of videotape cassettes sent to home networks by the television media. In addition, many high officials and senior officers visited the Marines. on 12 October, Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and his party arrived at the airport and toured the Marine positions. The next day, the FMFLant commander, Lieutenant General John H. Miller, visited the MAU, and was briefed by Colonel Mead and his staff. Later the FMFLant staff members accompanying General Miller, met with their MAU counterparts to discuss matters of mutual interest. Congressman Charles Wilson of Texas arrived on 17 October for a tour, while Vice Admiral Ronald J. Hays, CinCUSNavEur, and Sixth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Rowden visited TFs 61/62 on the 20th, when they


Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Robert H. Barrow takes the salute of Nashville (LPD 13) sideboys during the visit to 32d Marine Amphibious Unit and Phibron 4, late 1982.

met with the Phibron and MAU commanders both on the Guam and ashore. At various times throughout October, the Marines were visited by American embassy and Lebanese government officials, all of whom were given a Cook's tour of the Marine positions and headquarters.

Preparations for the relief in place of the 32d MAU by the 24th MAU began on 17 October with the arrival of a small liaison team headed by Colonel Thomas M. Stokes, Jr., the 24th MAU commander. A relief in place would remove both MAUs from planned NATO exercises, but the 32d had already been extended beyond its planned rotation date, and it was due to go home. Nine days later, on 26 October, the 24th MAU advance party arrived in Beirut to work with the 32d MAU staff on the relief plan. As the 32d began loading its equipment on Phibron 4 ships, key members of the 24th landed and made a reconnaissance of the positions ashore with unit commanders they were to relieve.38

Beginning at 0830 on the 30th, 24th MAU Marines moved ashore ke their assigned positions. The relief in place was completed nearly five hours later. The 32d completed reloading its equipment and personnel on board Phibron 4 shipping by 2300. At midnight on 1 November, Colonel Stokes relieved Colonel Mead as Commander, Task Force 62, whereupon Phibron 4 shipping steamed from Beirut, heading for Al Hoceima, Morocco, and an amphibious landing exercise on 9 November. The Marines backloaded from Morocco on the afternoon and evening of 10 November and celebrated the 207th Marine Corps Birthday in traditional fashion, complete with cake-cutting ceremonies. The MARG set a course for Rota, Spain, arriving there on the 143th, where the MAU landed and washed down all wheeled vehicles, heavy equipment, tanks, and AAVs. This washhdown was required by U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations in order to remove Mediterranean snails from all Stateside-bound equipment. Several years before, a snail infestation of North Carolina had resulted in massive crop damage.

Two days later, the MARG headed west for the United States. While underway, Marines and sailors prepared


for unloading at Morehead City upon arrival on 24 November. A Virginia State Highway representative boarded ship at Rota, and while crossing the Atlantic, lectured extensively and distributed literature about safe driving. At the same time, the MAU chaplains held classes for all hands to prepare for homecoming and reunion with their families.39 After all the official and media attention they had received in Beirut, the Marines of the 32d MAU had become fairly blase about the press coverage of their activities. They were therefore unprepared--especially the Vietnam veterans who remembered their less-than-open-arms welcome home when they returned to the United States--for the tumultuous reception they received when they docked at Morehead City on 24 November. Captain McCabe, Company E commander, was on the hangar deck of the Guam, when one of his young Marines came up to him and said, "'Hey, sire, you won't believe it, go look!' and I stuck my head out [and there were] two bands, these cheerleaders, girls, people all over the place, waving. It was moving. I'm getting chills just thinking about it now."40 In addition to bands at dockside, including the 2d Marine Division and 2d Marine Aircraft Wing officers, led by the division commander, Major General Alfred M. Gray, Jr. There were also throngs of people, network and local television crews, and some family members. Cheering and waving their hands, people were lined up along the route all the way back to Jacksonville. There were signs reading "Welcome Back, 32d MAU. Good Job. Welcome Home Marines." Said McCabe, "One lady ran out of the hairdresser's with her hair in curlers, with the bib still on her, waving at us. And then her hairdresser walked out and started waving."41 The nation's televisions screens that evening before Thanksgiving 1982 were filled with moving scenes of a heartfelt "welcome home" to the Marines for a job well done. not since the return of the Tehran hostages--nearly two years earlier--had there been such an outpouring of patriotic fervor.

On the 24th, HMM-261 launched from the Guam for an official welcome as its helicopters touched down at Marine Corps Air Station, New River. The MAU headquarters, the MSSG, and the BLT were met by General Gray and their families as their buses pulled into Camp Geiger, home of the 8th Marines. To Lieutenant Colonel Blankenship, ". . . it was very uplifting. I think the welcome home helped all of us. Well, it did me, anyway, because I remember coming home from Vietnam three times . . . certainly to the young Marines it was just tremendous."42

Official plaudits had come from the Commandant earlier in the month, after the MAU had left Beirut. He sent the following personal messages to Colonels Mead and Stokes:

USMC Photo
A causeway brings 24th Marine Amphibious Unit equipment ashore from Amphibious Squadron 6 ships off Beirut during the relief of the 32d MAU in November 1982.


For Colonel Mead: Please convey the following message to all 32d MAU Marines.

You have successfully completed your second deployment into Lebanon, acquitting yourselves honorably and with notable distinction. Your participation in the multinational force has brought stability to Beirut for the first time in 7 years and has given the Lebanese citizens the opportunity to begin rebuilding their city and to commence a return to a normal lifestyle. More importantly, your efforts in stabilizing Beirut have allowed the government of Lebanon to reestablish its authority, hold a presidential election and convene the National Assembly, all key to a stable and peaceful Lebanon. Your outstanding representation of our country and the successful execution of an extremely sensitive and difficult task have added another bright chapter to the history of our Corps. Your professional accomplishments will also enhance our 207th Birthday Celebration. I wish each of you success in your upcoming Phibron [amphibious landing exercise] and Godspeed in your return home.,

For Colonel Stokes: Please convey the following message to all 24th MAU Marines:

You have assumed the watch in a clearly dynamic and changing situation that involves the maintenance of a mission that is difficult and extremely important for peace in Lebanon and the entire region. you will be required to maintain the momentum of your predecessors with expanded responsibilities and challenges. Restraint and discipline will be of the utmost importance in your very delicate situation. Diplomatic initiatives currently underway depend on the security and presence you provide in Beirut. Your superb ability to move rapidly from participating on the northern flank in Bold Guard 82 to the southern flank for Display Determination 82 epitomized your professionalism. Beyond that, speaking for myself and your fellow Marines, rest assured we have every confidence that you will superbly represent the country and Corps as a member of the Multinational Force.43

By 15 November, the 24th MAU had been two weeks into its deployment, while the 32d MAU, back at Camp Geiger, was getting ready with its newly joined elements, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, HMM-264, and MSSG 22, for a return to Beirut in early 1983. Meanwhile, the 32d MAU staff looked forward to Christmas at home, while the 24th MAU got ready for Christmas in the field, not many miles away from where it all began.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)


[1] Upon the withdrawal of the MNF from Lebanon earlier in the month, Israeli forces returned to east Beirut and then entered west Beirut ostensibly to provide security for the PLO families remaining behind after the evacuation of the PLO guerrillas. "In reality, they were opportunistically going ahead with their desire to remove all caches from that area. They knew that substantial amounts of weapons and ammunition still existed in the area. This was fully substantiated later." Mead, Lebanon, p. 38.

[2] Sec III, p. 1, 32d MAU AAR for Beirut, Lebanon Operation, 29Sep-1Nov82, dtd 12Nov82, hereafter 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[3] 32d MAU ComdC, Sep82.

[4] USCinCEur msg to CinCUSNavEur dtd 25Sep82.

[5] Long Commissions Rpt, p. 7.

[6] Ibid.

[7] 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[8] Long Commissions Rpt, p. 7.

[9] As a matter of record, at no time ever during their deployment did the MAUs downgrade the threat of terrorism or fail to recognize its ever-presence in Beirut. This is apparent in a review of trianing schedules of the various MAUs as well as the comments made during the course of oral history interviews beginning with the 32d/22d MAU and successive MAUs concerning their deployments to Lebanon.

[10] Mead, Lebanon. p. 39.

[11] Blankenship intvw, p. 41. Shortly after the deployment of the 24th MAU in November, a Marine public affairs bureau was established at teh MAU headquarters with a Marine public affairs officer in charge.

[12] Johnston intvw, p. 26.

[13] Blankenship intvw, pp. 42-43.

[14] During the 1958 landing, the Marines designated this Red Beach.

[15] Maj Jack L. Farmer intvw, dtd 20Dec82, pp. 1-2, hereafter Farmer intvw I.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., pp. 4-5.

[18] Ibid.

[19] 32d MAU ComdC, Sep-Nov82. it was perceived by LtCol Johnston that the ng at the port was primarily for ceremonial resons, as the MAU wanted to land across the beach and by air at the airport. Johnston intvw, p. 5.

[20] National Military Command Center msg to ComSixthFlt, dtd 30Sep82.

[21] Farmer intvw I, p. 6.

[22] Ibid., p. 7.

[23] Although the 32d MAU's artillery was not landed, its artillerymen came ashore organized as a provisional infantry company.

[24] Ibid., p. 9.

[25] Johnston intvw, p. 47.

[26] The description of the MAU headquarters compound and buildings were derived frm the Long Commission Rpt, pp. 69-86.

[27] Another club was established at the opposite end of the building for sergeants and below, and in the MSSG building, still another club was set up and entitled "The Peace Keeper's Tavern." There was also a beer hall in the BLT headquarters building.

[28] Farmer intvw I, p. 12.

[29] Sect II, p. 1. 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[30] HMM-261 AAR, p. 1, in 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[31] MSSG-32 AAR, p. 3, in 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[32] 32d MAU ComdC, Sep82.

[33] Barnetson intvw, pp. 2-3.

[34] Ibid., p. 16.

[35] For a fuller description of MREs, see Capt Paul Loschiavo, "Ready to East Meals Replace C-rats," Marine Corps Gazette, Jun83, p. 33. The BLT later commented that ". . . the new MRE was well receivedt was tasty but the main portion offered substantially less that the old C-rations. The absence of cans or a plausible stove was found to be a problem and consequently most Marines ate MREs cold." BLT 2/8 AAR, p. 9, in 32d MAU AAR, Sep-Nov82.

[36] 32d MAU ComdC, Sep82.

[37] Mead, Lebanon, p. 40.

[38] Maj Christopher M. Arey intvw, dtd 17Mar83, p. 6, hereafter Arey intvw.

[39] 32d MAU SitRep, No. 32, dtd 21Nov82.

[40] McCabe intvw, p. 35.

[41] Ibid.

[42] BLankenship intvw, p. 59.

[43] CMC msg to COs, 32d MAU, 24th MAU, dtd 5Nov82.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation