Colonel Timothy J. Geraghty, who had assumed command of the 24th MAU on 17 March 1983, reported for operational control to the CG, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, 24 March.1 On that same day, BLT 1/8 (Lieutenant Colonel Howard L. Gerlach), HMM-162 (Lieutenant Colonel Laurence R. Medlin), and MSSG-24 (Major Douglas C. Redlich) reported for operations to the 24th MAU. For the upcoming deployment, the 24th MAU could go to Lebanon with Commodore (Captain, USN) Morgan M. France's Amphibious Squadron 8 on board the Iwo Jima (LPH-2), the Phibron flagship; the Austin (LPD 4); the Portland (LSD 37); the Harlan County (LST-1196); and the combat cargo ship El Paso (LKA 117).
Beirut V--Disaster Strikes
30 May-19 November 1983
MAU planning and operations were governed by an FMFLant letter of instruction, which had been issued in early February.2 The letter provided the MAU with instructions concerning its mission; operational, administrative, and logistics matters; and command and communications matters. It resembled the Marines' standard five-paragraph operations order, and was similar to letters of instruction issued to earlier MAUs.
On 27 April, the 24th's advance liaison party left for Lebanon. It returned to Camp Lejeune on 2 May to give orientation briefs to the commander and staff. The MAU embarked on Phibron shipping at Morehead City and Onslow Beach on 11 May and headed east toward the Mediterranean, but MSSG 24 did not leave Morehead City until the next day. The El Paso, upon which the MSSG was embarked, had engine trouble that was not repaired until the 12th.
Two days, earlier, Colonel Geraghty had visited Washington for briefings at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, and the Department of State. His staff went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a Lebanon briefing by the Army's 8th Psychological Operations Battalion. On the trip across the Atlantic, the MAU commander and his staff visited all the ships in the Phibron, and Colonel Geraghty also gave a three-hour personal briefing to embarked Marines and Phibron crew members in which he covered the Marine Air-Ground Task Force organization; 24th MAU organization; the history, religions, politics, and social culture of the Lebanese; the foreign and domestic factions in Lebanon; the rules of land warfare and of engagement; public affairs matters; and naval intelligence and operations.
During the Atlantic transit, a young Marine suffered an acute attack of appendicitis. Because there was no anesthesiologist in the MARG, in mid-Atlantic he had to be helilifted for surgery to the carrier Nimitz, then heading west to the States. Colonel Geraghty noted that this highlighted a serious medical deficiency in the MARG, and recommended that the ". . . possibility of obtaining necessary qualified medical personnel be explored to insure availability to all MARGs transiting the Atlantic."3
The 24th MAU differed from previously deployed MAUs in several ways. For example, the personnel assigned to Colonel Geraghty's staff were the first to be assigned permanently on change of station orders to
Before leaving for Beirut, BLT 1/8 commander LtCol Howard L. Gerlach, inspects an 81mm mortar with an M-32 sub-caliber pneumatic trainer attached.
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineAn HMM-162 CH-53E "Super Stallion" lifts off from the deck of the Iwo Jima, laying off the beach near Beirut International Airport, and heads inland to support Marines ashore.
a Marine Amphibious Unit headquarters for a tour of duty. Previously, when a deployment ended and a MAU returned to Camp Lejeune, its TAD personnel returned to their parent commands on the base. This welcome change offered ". . . continuity and a corporate memory . . . particularly for the sustained operations we have now in Lebanon."4
Another first in this deployment was the fact that HMM-162 was equipped with the new CH-53E "Super Stallion," a more versatile helicopter than the previous mode., the CH-53D, and with a capability of lifting 16 tons. This was an especially important factor, for the 24th MAU was also deploying with the new M-198 155mm towed howitzer, which could only be helilifted by the CH-53E. DUring the predeployment period, HMM-162's heavy-lift helicopters extensively trained lifting the howitzers from the deck of the Austin.
Other new equipment introduced for specific use ashore in Beirut included the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), for making fresh water, and the Mobile Food Service Unit, which us used when tray pack foods, a new concept in field rations, were issued to the troops. The 24th noted, "both units work extremely well and have proved to be major morals factors for the Marines ashore."5
After entering the Mediterranean, the Navy and Marine officers were given an updated Beirut brief by Sixth Fleet Marine Officer Colonel Jim R. Joy on 25 May. The next day, Colonel Geraghty and his advance party flew ashore to Souda Bay, Crete, and from there on to Beirut.
The relief in place of the 22d MAU was carried out with no perceptible problems on 29 May. Once in position, the 24th MAU immediately began mobile and foot patrols and took up positions at the airport and at the security post guarding the Durrafourd Building and the American/British Embassy. Colonel Geraghty was in Beirut less than a week before the first VIPs visited him. On 2 June, he and Commodore France hosted and briefed Congressmen Thomas M. Foglietta, Peter H. Kostmayer, and Theodore S. Weiss. Six days later, Vice Admiral Rowden arrived to meet the new commanders of Task Forces 61 and 62. Towards the end of the month, Chapman B. Cox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and a reserve Maine lieutenant colonel, arrived on the 28th for a two-day visit and orientation.
Like the MAUs before it, the 24th MAU set up its headquarters in the airport fire fighter school. The BLT headquarters and attached units established themselves in the four-story building that once had housed the Government of Lebanon's Aviation Administration Bureau. In picking its command post, the BLT sought
a site that provided security from light to heavy hostile artillery, rocket, and sniper fire, which had caused few Marines casualties so far.
Upon assuming airport defensive positions previously manned by the 22d MAU, BLT 1/8 began immediately to improve them. From 29 May--when Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach's battalion landed--to 23 October of that year, his Marines filled some 500,000 sandbags and emplaced 1,000 engineer stakes and 10,000 feet of concertina wire.
As the Long Commission later determined:
The BLT Headquarters building was occupied from the outset for a variety of reasons. The steel and reinforced concrete construction of the BLT Headquarters building was viewed as providing ideal protection from a variety of weapons. The building also afforded several military advantages that could be gained nowhere else within the BLT's assigned area of responsibility. First, it provided an ideal location to effectively support a BLT on a day-to-day basis. Logistic support was centrally located, thus enabling water, rations and ammunition to be easily allocated from a single, central point to the rifle companies and attached units. The Battalion Aid Station could be safeguarded in a clean, habitable location that could be quickly and easily reached. Motor transport assets could be parked and maintained in a common motor pool area. A reaction force could be mustered in a protected area and held in readiness for emergencies. The building also provided a safe and convenient location to brief the large numbers of U.S. Congressmen, Administration officials, and flag and general officers who visited Beirut from September 1982 to October 1983. In sum, the building was an ideal location for the command post of a battalion actively engaged in fulfilling a peace-keeping and presence mission.
Second, the building was an excellent observation post. From its rooftop, a full 360 degree field of vision was available. From this elevated position, forward air controllers, naval gunfire spotters and artillery forward observers could see into the critical Shuf Mountain area. Also from this position, observers could see and assist USMNF units in their positions at the Lebanese Science and Technical University. Further, this observation position facilitated control of helicopter landing zones that were critical to resupply and medical evacuation for the MAU. In sum, many of the key command control functions essential to the well-being of the USMNF as a whole could be carried out from the building. No other site was available within the bounds of the airport area which afforded these advantages.
Third, the building provided an excellent platform upon which communications antennae could be mounted. In that the supporting ships were initially as far as 3,000 to 6,000 yards off shore, antenna height was a major factor in maintaining reliable communications with the supporting elements of the 6th Fleet. Reliable communication with the ships of CTF 60 and CTF 61 was critical to the defense and safety of not only the USMNF, but to the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Ambassador's residence, the Durraffourd building, and our allies in the MNF as well. Reliable communications meant that naval gunfire missions could be directed at hostile artillery and rocket positions in the Shuf Mountains when they fired into the airport. Line-of-sight communications are also essential in calling for and adjusting air strikes. Moreover, such communications were key to the rapid evacuation o casualties via helicopter to secure medical facilities offshore.6
The relative quiet of late May and most of the following month permitted the 24th MAU to send a group of Marines to France for training and liberty and other Marines to Athens and Turkey for liberty, without weakening the MAU's readiness posture. A composite company of 102 Marine and sailors from
Photo courtesy of Claude SalhaniMarines from the 24th MAU dangles from a rope attached to a CH-46 helicopter over Beirut in a joint SPIE (special patrol insert-extract) rig exercise on 24 August 1983 with Legionnaires service with the French contingent of the Multi-National Force.
the BLT went to Camp Des Garrigues, 102 more went to Athens on board the Harlan County, and at the end of the month, 192 went to Antalya, Turkey on board the Portland for liberty.7
The MAU continued sending out an average of four to seven foot patrols daily in the vicinity of the airport, varying the sites, times, and routes. As the area outside the airport was becoming increasingly hostile, Colonel Geraghty met with the MNF Military Committee on 20 June to propose that Lebanese Army Forces fire teams accompany the Marines in the hope that adding LAF soldiers to the patrols might alleviate the threat.8 Five days later, such a step was taken. Each mobile patrol was also accompanied by A LAF lieutenant.
The Israelis continued to have their problems with terrorists. On 23 June, they responded to hostile acts with small arms fire that landed within Marine positions. The MAU commander took the matter up with the EUCOM representative and Israeli officers.
In June, the MAU conducted a heavy schedule of crosstraining, included SPIE [Special patrol insert/extract] rig/rappelling training with the LAF air assault battalion and soldiers from The QUeen's 1st Dragoon Guards, the British MNF contingent. On 26 June, Marines and members of the French unit, fired each other's weapons to become familiar with them. Throughout the month, the MAU's mechanics provided diesel engine training to their LAF counterparts. At the same time, all subordinate commands within the 24th MAU conducted a comprehensive training schedule that concerned physical fitness, small unit tactics, leadership, troop information, and field sanitation. The helicopter squadron also had a heavy training schedule, which included an extensive program of day and night qualification flights. Since its arrival in Beirut, Lieutenant Colonel Medlin had provided two aircraft on continuous medevac alert, as well as two Cobras on strip alert. While flying a round of logistics and diplomatic flights, HMM-162 also participated in the MAU's crosstraining program by providing support fo air assault operations, reconnaissance inserts, and helicopter familiarization.
On the intelligence side, the MAU's's S-2 section held
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineA Cobra from HMM-162 rises from the Iwo Jima to support the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit ashore. For their security, Cobras were generally kept on coard their carriers.
security and antiterrorist countermeasures classes for all MAU commands. The section also developed an extensive and comprehensive intelligence and security awareness program for the MAU.
Meanwhile, MSSG 24 was fully occupied supporting the MAU. In addition, the MSSG was faced with an increased number of people and units it had to support because of the attachment to the MAU of such varied elements and equipment as an intelligence section augmentation, a large radio battalion detachment, an Armed Forces Radio and Television Services detachment, an Ashore Mobile Contingency Communications Central--a van requested and received by the 22d MAU in April--ANGLICO, and a seven-man translator team, of which increased the MAU's strength by 170 Marines and sailors. These disparate detachments presented "a unique challenge to the MAU logistics effort due to the varied supply requirements of each and the lack of [organic] supply and maintenance support with the MAU Service Support Group. Most support is provided from external sources, such as naval supply and parent commands."9 On 17 June, as though anticipating future events, all MAU elements including the headquarters, took part in a mass casualty and evacuation drill ordered and directed by Commodore France.10
The political-military-diplomatic ferment going on in Lebanon caused Colonel Geraghty in June and early July to begin planning for a possible expansion of Marine operations to the south. The Lebanese Armed Forces had been planning to control certain areas when and if they were vacated by the Israelis. Asked in May if there was a possibility that his MAU would be expanded to brigade-size, Colonel Geraghty replied that he had heard rumors of the sort, but nothing substantive. He was prepared for such an eventuality, however.11
Early July remained quiet for the Marines, for the most part. Then, on 22 July, the airport was attacked by guns and rocket launchers fired by members of Walid Jumblatt's predominantly Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). Nearly a dozen 122mm rockets and 102mm mortar shells exploded inside the Marine perimeter. A Lebanese civilian was killed, seven civilians and three LAF soldiers were wounded, and an American sailor and two Marines were slightly injured by shell fragments and flying glass. In the middle of the month, Marine patrols in Hay es Salaam were increasingly harassed by Lebanese civilians. One struck a Marine in the chest in a show of bravado. The Marines showed restraint and did no respond. Before long, such attacks ended.
Anti-American sentiment escalated at the end of the month, however, when a group of two or three gunmen, later identified as Shia Muslim supporters of Amal, fired short bursts from semi-automatic weapons through the airport fence at a group of Marines jogging on the airport perimeter road. no one was hit. It was learned later that this attack was meant to be a warning for the Marines not to get involved with LAF operations.12 As a result of these attacks, the 24th MAU began to plan a series of escalated responses, ranging from non-lethal to lethal.13
Despite these warnings, the Marines continued unit and individual crosstraining with LAF and MNF units. This included vertical assault training and a combined amphibious landing on Green Beach with the French, and rappelling and parachute training with all allied units. In addition, Marine staff noncommissioned and noncommissioned officers filled drill instructor billets in the Army Mobile Training Team school. During all of this, visitors still arrived.13a
On 18 July, Lieutenant Colonel Harold W. Slacum relieved Lieutenant Colonel Beebe as the MAU executive officer. The latter was returning to the States to take command of a squadron.
To many of those on the scene, the shelling on 22 July marked the point in time when the Marine situation in Lebanon began to deteriorate markedly. During the first three days of August, however, while it was relatively quiet, Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach rotated his line companies to relieve the boredom of remaining in one place too long, and to keep them on their toes in a new environment. Companies A and C covered the eastern perimeter of the MAU line, while Company B was repositioned to the Lebanese University. A platoon from Company C stood guard at the British Embassy and the Durrafourd Building, and a squadron from the BLT's antitank platoon was in place
Copyright, 1983. Steve Kelly. Union-Tribune Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.
at the American ambassador's residence. Meanwhile, Colonel Geraghty had attached on ANGLICO team each to the Italian and the British contingents.
To better pinpoint the source of incoming artillery and rocket fire, two Army Field Artillery Schools Target Acquisition Batteries (FASTAB) equipped with AN/TPQ-36 counter-mortar/counter-artillery radars were sent to Beirut and attached to the MAU. The addition of the FASTAB provided a significant target acquisition capability that the Marine did not have earlier.14
These radars were put to use two days after their arrival On the night of 8 August, two more rockets impacted at the airport, as if to announce the beginning of renewed attacks on the Marines. At 0525 on the 10th, a 122mm rocket landed in between the MAU and the BLT Headquarters, slightly wounding one Marine officer.
An hour later, the MAU headquarters area came under a rocket barrage aimed at the lebanese Air Force flight line and LAF camps immediately north of the airport. (This closed down airport operations from 10 to 16 August.) Within another hour, 27 122mm rockets exploded around the Marine positions.l By 0725, having located the launching area, the BLT's 81mm mortar platoon fired four illumination rounds over the suspected sites. This told the Lebanese that the Marines knew where they were, and effectively silenced them in 10 minutes. This marked the first time the Marines had been forces to shoot indirect fire weapons in their own defense.
At the same time the rockets were landing, two Marine Cobra helicopters were launched over Green Beach, ready to attack targets on call. Simultaneously, Commodore France placed all his ships at general quarters and positioned his naval gunfire ships so they were also ready to fire on ashore targets when called upon. The 24th MAU command chronology for this period wryly notes that "Marines and sailors ashore got first-hand appreciation of things that have gone bump in the night for the past year."15
In lae July, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, had formed a Syrian-backed National Agreement or National Coalition Front which was opposed to the 17
Photo courtesy of Claude SalhaniMarines from 24th MAU parachute from a CH-53E helicopter over Beirut on 13 July 1983 in a joint training exercise with French and Lebanese troops.
May agreement between Lebanon and Israel. In anticipation of the Israeli withdrawal from the Alayh and Chouf districts, fighting escalated between the Druze and Christian Phalangists, and also between the Druze and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which were trying to strengthen their respective positions in view of the anticipated Israeli withdrawal. The LAF was also clashing with the pro-Khomeini Amal militia in the western and southern suburbs of Beirut.
A number of rounds were impacting accidentally and on purpose in the airport area because of this new fighting. Some of the spill-over fire landed on Rock Base, the Marine squadron's terminal at the north end of the airport's northeast-southwest runway. During the rocket and mortar fire on 10 and 11 August, one Marine was wounded.
As the fighting in the hills and within the city built up during the middle two weeks of August, isolated rounds landed in Marine positions and near the Ambassador's resident. meanwhile, Marine observation posts reported sightings of the Israeli Defense Force
Copyright 1983. Vern Thompson. The Lawton Constitution and Press. Reprinted with permission.
The new Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Paul X. Kelley, briefs the press during his August 1983 visit to the 24th MAU. To his left is Sixth Fleet commander VAdm Edward H. Martin, USN. Gen Kelley was to return to Lebanon less than two months later.
redeploying non-essential equipment, while preparing to withdraw its combat units as the Marines continued patrolling amid minor incidents of harassment. The Marines were not the only targets of various Lebanese factions during this period; the French, British, and Italian contingents also took small arms and mortar fire.
Despite this combat activity, some crosstraining continued, liberty parties and port visits continued, and official visitors continued to arrived. Admiral martin and General Vessey visited Colonel Geraghty on 1 August; Senator Robert W. Kasten, Jr., appeared on the 9th, followed nine days later by Congressmen Clarence D. Long, Lawrence Coughlin, William Lehman, Mary Russo, John E. Porter, and Richard H. Lehman. The highlight of the month was the two-day visit, 16-17 August, of the new Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Paul X. Kelley, and the new Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sergeant Major Robert E. Cleary. On the 20th and 21st, Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman, Jr., escorted by Admiral Martin, visited the Marines ashore and the Phibron afloat. As usual, the "Cammie Cab Company" kept busy, flying a total of 1111.6 hours in August, and carrying 90,550 pounds of cargo and 332 passengers--including Special Envoy Robert C. McFarlane, and regular customer.
The fighting in Beirut continued to escalate throughout the month, erupting with a roar on the afternoon of 28 August with heavy fighting between the LAF and the militia the continued for four days. The fighting was particularly intense around the airport, reaching its peak between 1400 on the 28th and 1230 the next day. As 24th MAU staff historian Captain Timothy J. Tanner wrote in the MAU's command chronology for August, "The small arms fire was as great as that on a 200-yard rapid fire string of the Marine Corps qualification course."16 He also noted that
in this two-day period, over 100 rounds of 82mm mortar and 122mm rocket fire landed in the airport area, with the shells landing as close as one kilometer in front of Marine positions. Two Marine-Lebanese checkpoints also received fire, as did the Marine company at Lebanese University.
In accordance with their rules of engagement, the Marines responded to these attacks with carefully orchestrated return fire. "They were [acting[ in self defense, did not initiate the exchange, and ceased firing when the attackers' fire was long longer directed at them."17
On 28 and 29 August, it was easy to distinguish these deliberate attacks from the stray rounds that passed overhead. As the fighting increased around the airport on the morning of the 29th, Druze mortar fire continued to land on the Marine lines. The BLT's 81mm mortars fired six illumination rounds over one of the suspected firing positions at 0940 in an attempt to suppress the Druze fire. Minutes later, several 82mm rounds landed on a Company A rifle platoon position, killing one Marine and wounding four others, one of whom later died. Before the day was ended, eight more Marines were wounded.
Firing continued all morning. At 1000, Druze rockets began hitting a LAF position outside the northern portion of the perimeter. At the same time, the Marines learned that a Druze artillery or rocket battery was preparing to fire on them. The 81mm mortar platoon once again fired six illumination rounds over the suspected Druze rocket battery, which was now firing at the rate of a rocket every 15 seconds. At approximately 1150, the guided missile cruiser Belknap (CG 26) fired two illumination rounds from its 5-inch gun. When this didn't stop the Druze, the Marine artillery fired in anger for the first time. A new 155mm howitzer of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 10 th Marines fired six 155mm, high-explosive, point-detonating rounds with pinpoint accuracy on the position, reportedly killing three and wounding 15 Druze. The Druze position went silent.
The MAU used all available resources to identify and precisely locate sites of the weapons firing at the Marines--the integrated observation station; visual sighting from the roof of the BLT headquarters building; sighting reports from observers on the lines, using the "flash-bang" ranging method; aerial sightings by observers overhead in a UH-1N and two AH-1T Cobras; and the electronic imagery registered on the screens of the FASTAB radars. This compilation of data enabled the MAU to fire with complete assurance of definite results. Colonel Geraghty also noted that he received overtures for a ceasefire beginning about 1230, which resulted in the end of hostile fire 45 minutes later. "The howitzer battery certainly reached out and touched someone. . . ."18
Earlier that morning, about 1045, an unidentified armored personnel carrier had opened fire on a jointly
Photo courtesy of Claude SalhaniA Battery C, 10th Marines M-198 155mm howitzer at the north end of Beirut International Airport points toward the Shiite guns which fired on Marines on 29 August.
Sign fronting Company A, BLT 1/8 tent in July 1983.
Sign in front of same mess tent, August 1983.
Same tent, same sign, new message, the next month
USMC Photos by SSgt Robert E. Kline
manned Marine-LAF checkpoint with .50 caliber and 7.62mm machine guns. Two Cobras were detailed to locate the source of the fire. When the wingman saw tracers directed at the lead Cobra, he lined up on the target and fired a 5-inch Zuni rocket, silencing the machine gun. Nevertheless, the first Cobra had sustained three hits and had to return to the Iwo Jima for an emergency landing.
After Colonel Geraghty set Alert Condition 3 at 1745 on 29 August19 Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach sent an armed supply convoy out to the Marine checkpoints on the eastern perimeter. The convoy reached its destination without incident, but on the return through the village of Hay es Salaam, the Marines picked up an escort of roughly 150 masked and heavily armed civilians who guided them to the village outskirts.
The last three days of August were marked by sporadic and occasionally heavy fire fights and artillery shelling in Beirut. At the same time, Marine positions came under random fire from weapons of all calibers. Heavy fighting resumed after dawn of 30 August, when to LAF brigades attempted to sweep west Beirut clean of the Shia militia, and the firing came uncomfortably close to the US/UK Embassy. Late that afternoon, Colonel Geraghty was tasked with providing additional security for the American ambassador's residence at Yarze, and he sent an additional squad from BLT 1/8's antitank platoon by helicopter. At this time all Marine positions on the perimeter and at the university were now under attack. The Marines returned fire to the extent permitted by their rules of engagement. The ANGLICO teams soon located and
Copyright 1983. Jack McLeod. The Army Times Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.
identified two artillery positions that had been firing on the French headquarters: "Discussion with the French indicated that they were not requesting that we return fire, but would not oppose it."20 The howitzers fired two illumination bursts over each of the emplacements, quieting them down for about one hour. It was later determined that one of the positions was an LAF battery firing at an Amal position located near the French headquarters, and the other was an Amal artillery battery.
On the morning of 31 August, a JCS order came down through to the Sixth Fleet, directing Commodore France and Colonel Geraghty to coordinate their efforts in drawing 500,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition from the MAU's contingency supply and delivering it to the Lebanese Armed Forces at the Juniyah Naval Base. The ammunition was transported by Phibron landing craft and HMM-162 helicopters. All the while, a Phalange gunboat laying off Juniyah observed the operation.
That afternoon, the LAF began shelling Jumblatt's PSP artillery and mortar positions in the hills east of the airport. Responding to this shelling, Jumblatt's guns fired on the Ministry of Defense, endangering the lives of the U.S. Army training team members there. Two Marine 155mm howitzers then fired high-explosive, variable time-fuzed shells at the PSP positions, and the shelling stopped. Gradually the fighting in Beirut tapered off, and the Marines then resumed Alert Condition 3.
The control of supporting arms during the last three days of August was divided between sea and shore. Colonel Geraghty controlled the artillery and mortars ashore, while Commodore France retained control of the naval gunfire, and control of all fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The control of direct fire weapons remained with Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach, the BLT commander.
Under the best of conditions, it was difficult to determine which of the Lebanese factions was firing at whom. As the MAU recorded in August:
During this period, the reports were made of LAF units to the northeast of the city firing east, south, and west into the city; PSP units in the city firing east and north; PSP units in the hills firing into the city, north of Juniyah, and south; LF (Phalange) units firing to the east, south, and west into the city; and LF units in Juniyah firing south at the hills,
southeast towards the PSP positions and southwest into the city. Isolated mortars and guns were everywhere, firing in all directions. The Marines only fired east and southeast. The fire support situation was best described by the American Ambassador as being unclear as to who was doing what to whom, and why. The when was evident throughout the period.21
Earlier in the deployment, Colonel Geraghty and his S-4, Major Robert S. Melton, had discussed the possibility of moving the Marine amphibious bulk fuel system, which was part of the MAU deployment package, to Green Beach. They foresaw the necessity for the system in July when the
Iwo Jima was laving Beirut for a port visit. At the same time, a sufficient fuel supply would be needed ashore to ensure continuous helicopter operations.
The CH-53Es, each of which carried a 500-gallon bladder externally, transported the 20,000 gallons of JP-5 aviation fuel ashore.22 The MAU also transferred 25,000 gallons of DMF (diesel marine fuel) ashore, a step that would prove to have been prescient when the fighting reached its height in late August and commercial sources in Beirut were no longer available. Commodore France, together with major Douglas C. Redlich (MSSG 24 commander) and Major Melton, devised a plan to transfer fuel ashore without having to move shipping closer to the beach and hostile fire. Simply, they put fuel bladders on one section of the Green Beach causeway, towed it out to a ship, far offshore, and filled the bladders:
". . . and then under cover of darkness and in the emission control state, without having any communications, [we] would move that ashore to the bulk fuel system we had set up on the beach in late August, [and] with a minimum amount of equipment and a minimum amount of assets being involved, we were also able to bring ashore 20,000 gallons of fuel on two different occasions during hostile periods without ever having to threaten any high value ships."23
By the time the 24th MAU arrived in Beirut, the 22d MAU had already established a relationship with commercial vendors in Beirut. The Marines recognized that Beirut had sources that could provide much of what the MAUs needed. This meant:
. . . getting all our fuel from commercial sources . . . fresh fruits and vegetables, paper products for the mess halls, soda beer . . . things like that . . . and as the situation developed into August and September, there was a dramatic change in all that because obviously the door to Beirut [had] shut as of the 28th of August and all that turned around.24
Fuel was a critical item. It was needed to keep the helicopters flying, the vehicles rolling, and the diesel generators operating and also for use in field sanitation. As Major Melton stated, ". . . we used about 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel a day, 800 of which, amazingly, were used to maintain sanitary conditions . . . [for] the field heads. The field latrines were burned every day using five to six gallons of diesel fuel for each head."25
In the wake of events during 28-31 August, EUCOM suspended the requirement for Marines' presence patrols in Beirut, and began preparing contingency plans for reinforcing the MAU. The nuclear carrier Eisenhower (CVN 69) and its carrier battle group, together with the French carrier Foch and several Italian gunfire support ships, moved closer to the Lebanese coast. With American Embassy personnel, Colonel Geraghty reviewed and updated his plans for evacuating civilians, "non-combatants."26
Meanwhile, on 4 September, the Israeli Defense Force began redeploying its troops from the Chouf and Alayh districts to the Awwali River in southern Lebanon, without notifying the Lebanese government, the Multi-National Force, or any of the embassies. At this time, the Lebanese Army was no more able to fill the vacuum left by the Israeli withdrawal than it had been on 17 May, when the Israeli-Lebanese Agreement was signed. Instead, the LAF moved to Khaldah, south of the airport near the Company C position. Most military observers knew that before long the LAF was going to have to clear the dissident elements from the suburbs of Beirut:
. . . but the Lebanese were not quite strong enough at that point to really dominate the areas. They could control the periphery, but they couldn't get within the city and enter Hay es Salaam, Burj al Barajinah, with those other Druze and Amal camps in order to clear them out. They could only threaten them from the outside. So, they didn't really clean it out. Subsequently, after the Israelis' withdrawal--it was not an unexpected withdrawal--but it occurred at such a time that the Lebanese had not been able to forge an accommodation of sorts with either the Druze or the Amal. Therefore, open warfare was a foregone conclusion.27
As the Lebanese Army began assembling its troops, the airport (Company C's position in particular) came under fire, which increased proportionally with the growing number of Lebanese troops massing and intermingling with Marines. The Marines returned fire at 11 identifiable targets, firing small arms, machine guns, and five rounds from the main gun of one of the five tanks.28
The withdrawal proceeded without incident for the Israelis, but it was marked by an outbreak of clashes between the Druze and the Phalange in the mountains, particularly in the areas of Suq al Gharb and Aytat, where a vacuum had begun to develop.
The fighting escalated on the 4th. Near noontime,
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineThe 1st Platoon, Company C, BLT 1/8, manned Combat Outpost 35, "The Alamo," north of Ash Shuwayfat in the eastern section of the 24th MAU airport perimeter.
PSP units moved a 106mm recoilless rifle into position and began firing at LAF armored vehicles and Marine bunkers. Adding to this fire were mortar rounds, which landed all over the southern portion of the airport and as for north as the southern part of Green Beach. On board the
Marine Cobras were placed on a five-minute alert, and BLT 1/8 moved a tank into Company C's lines to take the PSP recoilless rifle under fire. Meanwhile, the LAF moved a column of more than 60 mechanized vehicles south along the coast road and attacked into Khaldah behind an artillery barrage aimed at PSP positions in the foothills.
Firing at the airport then gradually tapered off, ending at 1426. Beirut International Airport remained quiet until 2000, when four rockets landed at the southern end of the Marine perimeter. This began a night-long, sporadic shelling of the airport and Green Beach. Marines fired 81mm and 155mm illumination rounds in an attempt to quiet the PSP gun, repeating this fire after 0400 on 5 September at the same targets. Two Marines were slightly wounded by PSP shell fragments, treated, and not evacuated.
Marine positions at the southern end of the airport continued to take artillery, rocket, and small arms fire as the Lebanese Army continued to use that area as a staging base. The MAU had three more Marine casualties, one of whom was hit in the neck and evacuated by helicopter to the Iwo Jima for treatment. Marine equipment very soon began to show signs of battle damage. "In fact, the tentage in Company C area looked more like camouflaged netting than it did tents."29
As the Lebanese fighting carried on into 5 September, both Colonel Geraghty's command and the Phibron alternated between Alert COnditions 1 and 2. Once again, Commodore France and Colonel Geraghty were called upon to provide a major resupply of artillery ammunition from the MAU's contingency supply and deliver it to the Lebanese Armed Forces at Juniyah. "This operation later proved to be the mainstay of the Lebanese government as the LAF, at
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineMarines of Company C, BLT 1/8, 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, conduct a foot patrol along the railroad tracks southeast of the company positions in late August 1983.
one point, were firing over 2,000 rounds of artillery ammunition in each 24 hour period.30
The next two days proved to be a particularly trying period for the Marines, both on the airport perimeter and in the area immediately surrounding the MAU and BLT headquarters. The first heavy rocket barrage began shortly after midnight, 5 September, with 11 rockets hitting near the terminal. Between 0345 and 0530, 21 rockets impacted, killing two Marines and wounding two others. Initially, the Marines replied by firing 155mm illumination rounds. With the light of day, two Cobras were launched in an attempt to discover the source of the rocket firing, but the great number of potential launching sites in the hills made it impossible to uncover the right one.
Meanwhile, the LAF attack in the hills was not going well. Lebanese government troops were forced to move east to Suq al Gharb to link up with the other government units in this strategic town, thus conceding to the Druze all high ground overlooking both the city of Beirut and Marine positions in the airport. By 1600 on 6 September, more than 120 rounds of artillery, mortar, and rocket fire had exploded at the airport, wounding another Marine.
During 6 September, Presidential Envoy McFarlane was involved in earnest diplomatic discussions with the protagonists, and even traveled to Damascus, Syria, in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a ceasefire. The night of 6-7 September passed relatively uneventfully, and the French suffered one soldier killed and three wounded when their compound came under fire. At 1815 on 7 September, three rounds landed within the Marine perimeter and several hit just outside of Company C lines. Six more shells landed in the vicinity of Rock Base, the HMM-162 landing area the northern part of the airfield, and the MAU headquarters, wounding a Marine from the MSSG. The Marines then returned fire with six high explosive 155mm rounds on a suspected Druze fire direction center. The
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline24th MAU Marines set up this static display of "stray" rounds which fell on a Company C, BLT 1/8 area following heavy firing on American positions in September 1983.
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline
Artillery fire from an unknown source hit this Company C, BLT 1/8 tent in September.
Marines on the roof of a Lebanese University building view an artillery round impacting near a Company A, BLT 1/8, position on the MAU perimeter in late September 1983.
USMC PhotoThe carrier Independence, hull down below the horizon in the waters off Beirut, maintains her position ready to provide air support to Marines ashore upon call when needed.
USMC Photo by SSgt Randy GaddoIn a more peaceful moment, Marines with 2d Platoon, Company C, BLT 1/8, relax with a game of basketball at their well-sandbagged position on the perimeter of the Beirut International Airport.
artillerymen next prepared to fire a high explosive illuminating mission coordinated with naval gunfire from the frigate Bowen (FF 1029). The Druze position ceased firing, however, and the mission was cancelled.
French aircraft from the Foch flew two photo-reconnaissance missions on 7 September over the area containing the artillery emplacements suspected of having fired on the French compound. These flights were followed by an F-14 mission flown from the Eisenhower, marking the first use of a Tactical Aerial Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) mission by U.S. forces in Lebanon.31 These TARPS missions quickly became a source of good information, used to good effect both by the MAU and the carrier battle group. Although there were Russian SA-7 surface-to-air (SAM) missiles in the hills ringing Beirut, the American command believed that their employment was tightly controlled and that they did not pose a significant threat to the F-14 flights.
Generals Miller (CG, FMFLant) and Gray (CG, 2d Marine Division) visited the MAU for three days beginning 7 September. At about 1130 on 8 September, three rocket rounds landed approximately 200 meters from where the Marine commanders were standing. in reply, a coordinated 155mm howitzer volley and 5-inch salvo from the Bowen landed on the target, marking the first time that naval gunfire was actually employed in support of the Marines ashore.32 And it changed the MAU mission a bit more from one of peace-keeping presence to one of active participation.
On the morning of 9 September, 20 mortar rounds exploded near the airport terminal area, marking the first attack from a lone mortar position located southwest of the airport. For the next month, this position was to plague the Marines, who named the gunner "Ali," and "Achmed, the Mad Mortarman." More explicit expletives sometimes flew in the direction of the Druze gunner, who would fire 10 to 20 rounds and then disappear for the rest of the day. He avoided all counterbattery detection by varying his attacks in time and intensity. "Initially, the MAU referred the attacker to the LAF and watched in vain over several days as the LAF artillery landed everywhere but in the vicinity of the mortar position."33 Most of these Druze mortar rounds were directed at the LAF Air Force's Hawker-Hunter jet fighters west of the main MAU area.
The 24th MAU command chronology for September noted that the movement of Government of Lebanon troops into the mountains put Marines into a position of providing more direct support to the Lebanese. As the LAF became engaged in the mountains along a line from Alayh in the north, and Bshamun, the firing into the Marine lines diminished and gradually ceased. For the next 15 days, the fighting in the hills above Beirut and the airport seesawed, occasionally bringing rounds into the airport area, but not in the volume of the previous two weeks.
In the first week of September, Colonel Geraghty noted, "All ops in this report were protective in nature, either passive, building or reinforcing positions, or active; locating hostile weapons firing on the BIA. Marines returned the fire where appropriate."34 He also commented:
The increasing involvement in direct and more frequent combat actions has tasked the MAU assets to their fullest. All hands are at quick step and the forced march pace is beginning to tell . . . 24 MAU has added a new page to the discussion on maneuver warfare, i.e., stakes are being raised weekly and our contribution to peace in Lebanon since 22 July stands at 4 killed and 28 wounded. Phibron-8 also
added 1 wounded. We still stand our ground, however, and accomplish the mission we were sent here to do. Morale is high and while many of the Marines do not fully understand the complexities of the effort, all realize its importance to the nation. The call from the President and the visits of LtGen Miller and MGen Gray, were well appreciated and provided a needed boost at a rough time, 24th MAU will hang tough.35
Photo courtesy of Claude SalhaniWhen LtGen John H. Miller, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, visited 24th MAU headquarters on 9 September 1983, Marine positions were hit by three enemy rocket attacks, which were answered by naval gunfire from American ships.
General Mead spoke of Geraghty's problems in a presentation at Claude Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C., on 14 September 1983:
. . . with the situation that you find yourself in now, what options do you have? Withdraw? Attack? Hunker down?
. . . Do you attack? It's not a military problem. Who do you attack? Do you take on the Druze, the Shia, the Muslims? Who do you attack?
Do you hunker down? Isn't that a wonderful expression? Hunker down. Well, you remain on the defensive right now, being responsive to the political arena in hopes that some type of political solution can be arranged through Special Envoy Bud McFarlane. . . ."36
General Mead also referred to a telephone call from the President to Colonel Geraghty, in which the Commander-in-Chief reminded the MAU commander that he had the full support of the nation and further reminded him that he had the Sixth Fleet in direct support, and to use it when it became necessary.37
Despite the sift of the fighting into the hills, the Marines were not entirely forgotten by the Druze or
Photo courtesy of Francoise de Mulder
On the alert, Marine machine gunners survey the scene on front of their positions.
any of the other factions. At 0100, 11 September, Amal forces attacked a joint Marine-Lebanese checkpoint in an attempt to capture ammunition. The attack was beaten off; the Amal were unsuccessful. There were no American or Lebanese Armed Forces casualties.
The next four days, the Marines received a varied amount of small arms, rockets, artillery, mortar, and rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire, suffering five wounded. All line companies and manned checkpoints were fired upon and were forced to remain in a Condition 1 state of alert.
In anticipation of his Marines reinforcing the 24th MAU, Colonel James H.R. Curd, commander of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, and key staff officers came ashore on 14 September for a briefing of the situation by the staffs of Colonel Geraghty and Commodore France. The 31st MAU had transited the Suez Canal after a training operation in Kenya and had arrived off Beirut on the 12th. Colonel Curd's command consisted of BLT 3/3, HMM-165, and MSSG 31, and was embarked aboard Amphibious Squadron 1 shipping--the Tarawa (LHA 1), the Duluth (LPD 6), and the Frederick County (LST 1184) [sic: while many LST's were named for counties at this time, the USS Frederick was named for both a city and county--HyperWar]. Acting as the afloat reinforcement for the 24th MAU, Colonel Curd and the Phibron 1 team joined in the planning for contingency operations, a noncombatant evacuation operation, and prepared themselves to conduct any other mission assigned to them.38
The 24th MAU and Phibron 8 were given additional muscle later in the month, when the battle ship New Jersey (BB 62) arrived on 25 September to add to the naval gunfire support already available to Marines ashore.
Commenting on the arrival of the 31st MAU and the nearness of the carrier Eisenhower and its accompanying battle group, Colonel Geraghty said:
The presence of ARG Alpha offshore and the overflights from the Ike are reassuring and well received by the Marines on the line. I am convinced that the presence of the fixed wing [aircraft] from all the members of the MNF has given those elements firing on BIA cause for concern and they have curtailed their bombardments accordingly. Morale remains high, but the bunkers are getting deeper.39
Earlier, on 14 September, the MAU was directed to dig again into its LFORM to provide the LAF once more with an emergency resupply of ammunition. During September, HMM-162 helicopters transported 2,424,081 pounds of cargo (including 1,345,050 pounds of ammunition), most of it for the Lebanese Armed Forces.40
During the night of 16 September, the Lebanese Ministry of Defense and the American ambassador's residence were shelled heavily. The frigate Bowen and the destroyer John Rodgers (DD 983) fired six naval gunfire missions, expending 72 rounds on six targets and silencing the attackers.
Colonel Geraghty and his staff soon perceived that the LAF would have to retain positions on the Suq al Gharb ridgeline for its offensive to be successful. Walid Jumblatt must have shared this view, for his Druze PSP elements began to focus their main efforts on retaking the ridge.
Operating in support of the PSP militia, Palestinian units in the mountains attacked the Lebanese government forces at Suq al Gharb early on 19 September. The fighting soon go so heavy that gunfire of all calibers could be heard by Marines at the airport throughout the morning. As the Lebanese Army's artillery stocks became dangerously low, the Ministry of Defense, through Army Brigadier General Carl W. Stiner, Ambassador McFarlane's JCS liaison officer in Beirut, requested U.S. naval gunfire support for the LAF. The Ministry of Defense reported that the Palestinians had mounted a two-battalion tank/infantry attack preceded by a heavy artillery preparation, and the LAF was in danger of breaking under the pressure of the attack.
In response to the Lebanese request, the guided missile nuclear cruiser Virginia (CGN 38), the John Rodgers, the Bowen, and the destroyer Radford (DD 968) fired 360 5-inch shells in support of the LAF over a five-hour period. The Lebanese government late reported that the Palestinians broke and ran under this devastating barrage which turned the tide of battle.
Earlier training and material support of the LAF notwithstanding, this specific instance of combat support evidently ended the perception of the Marines a neutral in the eyes of anti-government factions. As the 24th MAU executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Slacum, later commented:
When we provided fire on their [LAF] behalf, it did stop the attack, they were able to hold, and it did provide them a day or so of relief while they regained their composure and reinforced up there . . . .
It would appear that our very presence, even before our active support of the LAF, was having a great impact on the issue within Lebanon. It also became intuitively obvious that while we were very cautious in our exchange of artillery and naval gunfire with those batteries that were shooting at us, we did so in a manner as to, I think, show the other side that we were using great restraint. . . . And while we weren't necessarily looked upon as either neutral or friends, it was apparent we weren't looked upon as enemies . . by and large, they did not group us, target us as an enemy. Those factions that did finally target us appeared to be from outside
Filling sandbags was a never-ending chore during the 18 months Marines were in Beirut. In that period, Marine Amphibious Unit troops filed more than one million bags.
Photo courtesy of Francoise de Mulder
Lebanon, instigated by other nations for whatever purpose, ultimately to discredit us.41
Colonel Geraghty recognized that providing U.S. naval gunfire support to the LAF had changed the nature of his mission. The Marines were now considered legitimate targets by ]anti-government forces. Commenting on this matter in an interview conducted during his return home from Beirut in November 1983, he remarked:
The firing we did in support of the LAF up at Suq al Gharb, that clearly changed our roles . . . It's a milestone, no question about it in my opinion. It moved us from a previous, very careful, razor edge line of neutrality that we were walking, and treating all the Lebanese communities alike . . . When we provided support . . . [to] the Lebanese at Suq al Gharb, that, to me, moved it to a different category. . . .
The Lebanese had run quite low on ammunition and it would have been unconscionable for us not to have provided support at a very crucial time for them. . . .42
For the next several days, the Ambassador's residence and the Ministry of Defense came under heavy shelling, causing fires in the residence. All embassy personnel except the Marine guard and radio watch were moved into the Presidential Palace, and the Bowen and Virginia engaged the hostile firing battery with 30 5-inch rounds each.
A change began to appear in the MAU's official report:
Naval gunfire became the weapon of choice, if it could engage the enemy firing units, as it gave separation from USMNF and did not require them to use their organic howitzers in defense of the LAF or MOD [Ministry of Defense.]43
This marked the first time the anti-government elements were referred to as "enemy" in any Marine report.
Another "first" occurred on 20 September, when two Navy carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft were attacked by a SA-7 surface-to-air missile. Fired from an unknown location, the missile never acquired the lead aircraft, missing it by two miles.
The next night, 21 September, the Radford, John Rodgers and Virginia fired 90 more 5-inch rounds on two targets.
On 23 September, fighting around the airport intensified once again. Two Marine checkpoints came under heavy attack, which included fire from a 20mm antiaircraft cannon. Simultaneously, both the French and Italian compounds were taken under fire. By 1325, the fighting between the LAF and Amal militia in Hay es Salaam had become particularly heavy. Two hours later, the spillover fire began to endanger the Marines and the MAU's 81mm mortars fired 12 high-explosive rounds at a suspected Amal position, silencing it. During the following hour, the Marine mortars fired an additional 28 rounds after their positions at the Lebanese University and other checkpoints once again received intense small arms and RPG fire. That evening, Marine 155mm howitzers and naval gunfire engaged an artillery position that was firing on the airport. later, the MAU command post came under fire, generating yet another response from Marine mortars and naval gunfire.
These outbreaks of heavy fighting highlighted the vulnerability of the isolated Marine checkpoints, the inability of the 24th MAU to reinforce and resupply them when necessary, and difficulties in evacuating the wounded without placing other Marines in jeopardy. These checkpoints initially had been established as a buffer between the Israeli forces and Hay es Salaam. Since the Israelis were no longer in the area, the checkpoints no longer served a useful purpose and the risks they faced were now unacceptable. On the afternoon of 24 September, after notifying the Lebanese government, 24th MAU redeployed 15 Marines from one checkpoint and 25 from the other to Company B positions at the Lebanese University.
At this point, the shuttle diplomates managed to arrange a ceasefire to take effect on 26 September. Just before the ceasefire, there was considerable fighting around the airport, as various factions attempted to gain favorable positions, and fighting in the airport area eventually tapered off by the end of the month. Other factors contributing to a reduction in the number of attacks on the Marines were the arrival of the reinforcing 31st MAU and the battleship New Jersey, as well as the demonstrated readiness of the Americans to employ naval gunfire in support of the LAF and in their own defense. The right of self-defense was also being exercised by allied forces. On 23 September, the French conducted an airstrike against the weapons that had been firing on their positions.
The 24th MAU's command chronology fo September notes that the month ended in a positive vein, despite two adverse events. One was the crash of a Marine Cobra helicopter into the sea.44 Both pilots were rescued, and had but minor injuries. The second event was the seizure by the Amal militia of two soldiers from the Army Field Artillery School's Target Acquisition Battery, when the Americans made a wrong turn away from the main north-south thoroughfare in the center of Beirut. The two were brought to Nabih Berri, the leader of the Amal, ". . . who apologized for the incidents."45 Saying that the Amal held no animosity toward the Americans, Berri released the two to a French liaison officer. Their jeep was returned, but the pistol of one of them was not.
Of this event, Colonel Geraghty observed, "The incident was particularly serious as it pointed out the relative inability f the USMNF to react to incidents of this nature and demonstrated the variety of threats to the MNF and their possible consequences."46
Near the end of the month, on 24 and 25 September, Colonel Geraghty hosted a large congressional delegation led by Congressman Samuel S. Stratton of New York.* Included in this group were Representatives William L. Dickinson, William Nichols, Larry J. Hopkins, Bob Stump, Beverly B. Bryon, Richard B. Ray, John McK. Spratt, Jr., Solomon P. Ortiz, and
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineAdm James D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Operations, talks to 24th MAU Marines at the MSSG building at Beirut International Airport on 5 October 1983, during his visit.
Duncan L. Hunter. Accompanying the delegation was General Mead, who was now Director of Manpower Plans and Policy at Headquarter Marine Corps.
Beginning 26 September, the 24th MAU began a series of rest and recreation tours for the line Marines on board Task Force 61 shipping.This gave them an opportunity for hot showers, hot food in a "safe" atmosphere, and just a chance to get away from Beirut for a short period.
After being closed to all air traffic for six days, Beirut International Airport reopened on 30 September, the day that Ambassador McFarlane, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, toured the MAU's positions. His helicopter, on an aerial reconnaissance, was hit by a stray round. Despite this incident, Colonel Geraghty commented that the ceasefire had been a welcome relief and that all MAU personnel were getting some rest as a result. He also noted that tensions remained high in Beirut, and that it was still risky to travel through most of the city.47
At the beginning of October, the LAF began to receive additional American shipments of armored personnel carriers, tank,s and howitzers. The training of Lebanese recruits (and unit) resumed. Walid Jumblatt declared the establishment of a separate governmental administration for the Chouf and called for Druze to defect from the LAF. By mid-October, he joined with other faction leaders in agreeing to conduct reconciliation talks in Geneva.
Going into October, the ceasefire that had been negotiated in late September seemed to hold, but in a very fragile way. Sporadic fighting continued in the suburbs. The 24th MAU began the month in Alert COndition 3, but spillover fire dictated a higher state of alert. Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach rotated his companies into new positions, which they would hold until relieved by the 22d MAU in November.
On 5 October, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral James D. Watkins, and the Sixth Fleet Commander, Admiral Martin, visited the MAU. After receiving a briefing, the CNO in turn briefed Marines, sailors, and soldiers at the BLT headquarters building.
In time, the MAU squadron's helicopters became targets of small-arms fire. Several planes were hit, but landed safely with minor damage and no crew injuries. To forestall the possibility of more serious incidents, Colonel Geraghty changed the helicopters' flight patterns and varied their routes to and from the airport.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire continued to unravel, PLO members attempted to infiltrate back into Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and violence erupted as barricades
were set up at Hay es Salaam, Burj al Barajinah, and Ash Shuwayfat. Fighting between the PLO and the LAF caused more stray rounds to land in Company A's area at the Lebanese University. Snipers began firing at Marines from buildings close to the MAU's lines, and armed militiamen were spotted entering building ruins.
On 8 October, heavy fighting erupted between the Lebanese government forces and the militia at Burj al Barajinah, Ash Shuwayfat, and Khaldah. Poorly directed fire impacted into Marine positions most of the day, and one Marine was wounded slightly. Around 0900, Marines at the university were taken under sniper fire. One Marine was hit in the shoulder, but was not wounded seriously enough to warrant evacuation. An hour later, a CH-46 drew hostile fire with two rounds striking the aircraft causing damage to its skin. These last two incidents removed any remaining doubt that the USMNF aircraft and men were once again targets of snipers.48
Factional clashes and sniper activity continued for the next few days, with Marine line companies being fired at and returning fire where targets were identifiable. Of this period, Colonel Geraghty said:
The ceasefire, while holding for the most part throughout the area, has degenerated to isolated attacks upon the MNF and low level, but violent, confrontation between the various factions; the direct threat against the Marines has increased significantly as several of the more radical groups view the MNF as an alternate and readily visible source against which to demonstrate their [hostilities]. We have returned to our most alert condition and will remain at such for some time. Resupply of my outlying units continues on the ground. I feel it is not worth it to hazard the aircraft. I have moved my air operations to a more protected area and have increased the visible presence of the tank unit to be prepared for fire if necessary. I anticipate the attacks to continue, and have commenced actions to force the LAF to take action in the Hay es Salaam area. I have identified what I believe to be a major source of the attacks upon my position, and should they continue, and the LAF does nothing, I will reduce the treat as effectively as possible.49
The squadron's operations center ashore, at the northern end of the airfield, was evacuated:
. . . because we were just taking too much sniper fire. It was no longer safe to walk out in the flight line. The snipers were there at the end of the runway, had [us] zeroed in and you just couldn't walk out there without drawing fire. So, we had to close that area completely.50
At one point, the squadron's S-2 chief, a trained sniper, was called upon to return fire during one period of heavy sniping and he reported a kill. With the exception of a small crew that remained ashore to operate Landing Site Brown on the southwestern portion of the airport, all HMM-162 Marines went back to the Iwo Jima.
On 12 October, General Kelley, Commandant of the Marine Corps, paid his second visit to Beirut. The next day, he awarded 12 Purple Hearts to Marines wounded in Beirut, held a press conference, and returned to Washington.
Despite the worsening situation, the 24th MAU was able to send Marines on liberty runs to Turkey and Alexandria, Egypt. Isolated hit and run attacks against Marines continued. On the evening of 13 October, a grenade was thrown from a car speeding on the Corniche at a sentry standing guard at the Durrafourd Building. He was wounded badly enough to require evacuation to the Iwo Jima after initial treatment at American Hospital. At 2103, Marine helicopters at Landing Site Red at the northern end of the airport, near the Marine artillery positions, came under heavy small-arms and RPG attack. A short time later, fire from Hay es Salaam hit the northern Marine perimeter.
At 1030 the nest morning, accurate sniper fire was directed at two Marine jeeps traveling the airport perimeter road in th eastern sector. The drive of the first jeep was hit in both legs. The driver of the second jeep was shot through the chest and the vehicle overturned. Marines at the landing site and on the perimeter returned the fire with unknown results. Both Marines were evacuated to the Iwo Jima, where the second jeep driver died of his wounds. Both LZ Red and the perimeter road were subsequently closed as sniper fire became a daily hazard.
Militia activities in Hay es Salaam continued to escalate as militiamen, clearly visible to the Marines, prepared sandbagged positions in the ruined buildings opposite the Marine lines, stocking them with weapons and ammunition. The night of 14 October was particularly threatening as militia snipers fired into the positions of Companies A and C. This sniper fire continued into the morning of the 15th, and the Marines deployed a sniper team of their own to deal with this new threat. "The team surveyed the area with sniper scopes for several hours, pinpointing the snipers actually firing at Marine positions. The team then opened fire with 18 rounds of match 7.62 ammunition at 14 targets. Their success was evident by the sudden silence from each hostile position."51 Other firing into Marine positions, however, continued to be hostile and unpredictable.
At 1615 on 16 October, a tense calm was shattered
when Company A, at the university, began receiving rifle and machine gun fire from a bunker near its position. Marine snipers returned the fire for the next four hours. At 1915, the volume of fire increased. Three Marines were wounded when five RPGs detonated near the library building. Company A returned ire with rifles and machine guns. The heavy fire kept a medevac helicopter from landing to take out the wounded. At this point, the British contingent, across the Sidon Road, offered their Ferret scout car to escort a Marine motor convoy to the Ministry of Defense, where the two most seriously wounded Marines could be flow out to the Iwo Jima. While flying over Hay es Salaam, the choppers were fired upon, but not hit. The hostile fire against Company A increased, and the Marines fired two Dragon antiarmor guided missiles to silence a particularly troublesome machine gun. Another Marine died when Company A's forward ir controller was shot in the forehead by a sniper. The volume of fire was such that the dead Marine and two other wounded men could not be evacuated until late in the afternoon of the following day, after a convoy returned to MAU headquarters by a roundabout route.
On the night of 16-17 October, the firing spread to the north and south of the university buildings, placing Company A under siege. By midnight, the fire had begun to taper off, even though it continued sporadically from Hay es Salaam. Scattered fighting continued in Beirut and its suburbs until the 19ty. At this time, LEbanese government forces were heavily engaged at Suq al Gharb and in the vicinity fo Burj as Barajinah, as well as in Khaldah.
At 1622 on 19 October a supply convoy returning from the Durrafourd Building and the British Embassy was hit by a remote-controlled car bomb. Four Marines were wounded by the explosion. As the Marines rushed a covering squad to the scene of the bombing, Italian soldiers on the scene treated the wounded, and evacuated the most seriously injured to the Italian field hospital. Later, intelligence sources revealed that the Americans had been targets of a pro-Iranian Islamic fundamentalist sect. Four days later, a French jeep was bombed when it passed a command-detonated explosive device hidden in a garbage can. One French soldier was wounded.
Beirut was quiet on 20 and 21 October, with only one Marine checkpoint reporting incoming fire. Lebanese units at Suq al Gharb and Khaldah exchanged artillery fire with the Amal militia, but only Company B on the eastern perimeter received any hostile fire. On 22 October, it was quiet enough for the sailors and Marines to enjoy a USO show at the BLT building.
For obvious reasons, cross-training with the LAF and other MNF units had to be severely curtailed during October. At the same time, the 24th MAU began looking forward to its mid-November relief by the 22d MAU. Backloading of non-essential equipment began on 15 October as the MAU began washing down its
Sketch by Maj John T. Dyer, Jr., USMCR (Ret)
A British Ferret armored vehicle and a Land Rover at the 22d MAU hospital in late 1983.
A touring USO band plays in front of the BLT headquarters building the day before it was destroyed.
lower priority rolling and tracked vehicles to shorten the time required for such efforts at Rota. Some equipment was even re-embarked on the El Paso before it left for a port visit to Antalya on 11 October.
During this period, a continuous flow of messages from Task Forces 61 and 62 carried work of the increasing threat up through the chain of command. Nevertheless, the watch officer in the National Military Command Center in washington were unprepared for and shocked by Commodore France's flash message at midnight on 22-23 October (0700 in Lebanon):
Explosion at BLT 1/8 Hq . . a large explosion at BLT 1/8 Hq Bldg collapsed the roof and leveled the building. Large number of dead and injured. Are using MSSG 24 and Italian MNF medical and will medevac out of LS Brown . . French report Bldg in their sector also bombed . . unknown injured; BLT Hq destroyed. Amplifying info to follow.52
As later messages flowed in detailing further damage and loss of life, the shock deepened. Colonel Geraghty had arisen at about 0530, going down on floor of the MAU headquarters building. Noting that the night had been relatively quiet, the MAU commander soon returned to his second floor office/sleeping quarters.
The explosion of the truck bomb literally blew out all of the windows in the MAU headquarters. To forestall any injuries should such an attack ever occur, Colonel Geraghty and his executive officer earlier had taped all of the windows in their room. The explosion also cracked the MAU headquarters structure, scattering debris all over. Geraghty ran outside, where the atmosphere was foggy with debris floating down. He ran around to the back of the MAU building, seeing only, ". . . a heavy fog and debris . . . still floating gown."53
The MAU commander next ran over to the aviation safety building behind the MAU headquarters, where all the windows had been blow out. "And it was just then . . . the fog was clearing, and I turned around and the BLT building, the headquarters, was gone. I can't explain to you my feelings then. It was just unbelievable."54
Colonel Geraghty and the on-scene Marines immediately began to rescue the injured from the ruins, and to implement their mass casualty evacuation plan, ". . . because of the increased hostilities that had occurred as well as the changing situation, we had updated and practiced our NEOps with mass casualty evacs in the event of something like this. And that
As viewed from Marine positions in the southeast sector fo the 24th MAU perimeter, smoke rises from the devastated BLT headquarters building in this photograph taken within seconds after the blast occurred.
USMC Photos by SSgt Robert E. Kline
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineA view of the crater made in the first floor of the BLT headquarters building by the explosion of the truck bomb which devastated the structure on 23 October 1983. The arrow points to a crankcase, all that remained of the truck after it was detonated.
proved to be quite helpful."55 Unfortunately, the battalion surgeon who would have played a very large role in treating the wounded, was killed in the explosion.
Lieutenant Colonel Slacum had been in his bunk at the time of the explosion. His mosquito netting was down and caught the pieces of glass blown inwards. The executive officer was dressing hurriedly when Colonel Geraghty returned a said, "Good God, the BLT is gone! You won't believe it, the building is gone."56
Geraghty then went to his communication section to report via secure-voice radio to the Sixth Fleet commander. He next sent an OpRep-3 Pinnacle Front Burner57 flash message to the National military Command Center in Washington, requesting that the BLT headquarters be replaced by the 2d Marine Division's air alert force and that he be sent an additional rifle company to enable the MAU to become operational again as soon as possible. Additional Marines would be needed to provide increased security for the grim clean-up facing the MAU.58
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Slacum had traced Colonel Geraghty's steps to the devastated area:
. . . down to the steps of the BLT, and all the while I'm walking through debris that's about midcalf deep, and I just didn't even notice it. It's just one of the surrealistic scenes where things are . . . so grotesque and so odd that your mind doesn't comprehend, you're still in somewhat of a little bit of shock and I just didn't notice the stuff until I got to the steps of the building and I looked and the thing that struck me is that it was deathly silent. This was perhaps three, four minutes after the explosion, after we had run up and down the ladder a couple of times. . . . And there was a gray dust over everything you could see, as far as you could see. The concrete . . . from this collapsed building, that had once been three-four stories high was now down to one story . . . you could make out which was the first story and then just another 10-15 feet of rubble piled on top of that . . . I first looked around and that's when you started to see the first bodies, and went to check those that I could see in front of me and then realized the magnitude of the problem. I heard no one, I saw no one.59
Slacum then rushed to the communications office to enter the radio net connecting all of the Multi-National Forces to advise them of what had happened and to ask the Italians to send all the medical assistance they could spare. There was an immediate communications problem. The MAU headquarters did not directly monitor the tactical radio net of the line companies, which terminated at the BLT headquarters. So the MAU had to establish direct radio contact with the line companies, informing them of what had happened, and linking them directly into the MAU's combat operations center.
The MAU's operations officer, Major George S. Converse, was then in Norway making preparations for a later training exercise. His duties were assumed by the fire support officer, Captain Timothy J. Tanner, and the Assistant S-3, First Lieutenant Stephen N. Mikolaski. Among other things, they had to ensure that the fire support coordination net previously run by the BLT communication section was reestablished by the MAU. They also put the naval gunfire support ships on alert and reestablished radio communications with the FASTAB (Field Artillery School Target Acquisition Battery).
By now, rescue efforts were fully underway. Lieutenant Colonel Slacum asked the New Jersey to send her Marine detachment ashore to provide security; ". . . we had everybody we could get who was familiar with weapons and had been trained as a guard."60
Lieutenant Mikolaski, who bunked in one of the four garages in the MAU building--three doors away from the command operations center--first thought that a satchel charge had been thrown into the command
post. He ran out ". . . and saw that the glass had been blown out of the door. In fact, the doors in the CP had been blown off their hinges, and everyone in the CP was either on the floor or getting up."61
Mikolaski found Captain Tanner in the communications center first trying to raise the BLT headquarters on the radio. He then attempted to obtain reports directly from the line companies. Word was received over the MNF radio net from the French that one of their buildings had been bombed. Lieutenant Mikolaski thought for a moment that all the MNF contingents were being hit with missiles.
After ensuring that the OpRep-3 message had gone out, Mikolaski, together with MAU air officer Major Randolph P. Cotten and MAU Sergeant Major Richard E. Dudley, jumped in Cotten's jeep to see if the MSSG had been able to set up a triage station at LZ Brown. Commodore France had sent a medical team to the airport and working parties from the Harlan County and the Portland had gone to Green Beach. France had also activated medical teams on the New Jersey and the Virginia to be helilifted to the airport. he recalled the Austin from its port visit to Alexandria and alerted the Royal Air Force hospital at Akrotiri, Cyprus to the need for possible medical assistance. Finally, he requested medevac aircraft from Stuttgart, Germany.62
Cotten, Mikolaski, and Dudley then drove to the BLT headquarters building. They saw many Marines digging by hand through the ruins in a desperate attempt to rescue the living, trapped Americans. The wounded were evacuated from the MSSG headquarters, near the MAU command post, while some were taken to local hospitals in Beirut for treatment. The trio then went back to LZ Brown, where Mikolaski noted that a medical officer had arrived and the triage process was working; and these wounded were evacuated seaward.
At this moment, when working parties were frantically digging in the debris and rubble of the destroyed building with bare hands, perhaps one of the busiest Americans at the scene was Lieutenant Commander George W. Pucciarelli, the MAU's Catholic chaplain. Pucciarelli wore the wings of a parachutist earned while serving with a Marine force reconnaissance unit. Like the others in the MAU headquarters, he had been awakened by the blast. In the cot next to him was the Sixth Fleet Jewish chaplain, Lieutenant Commander
By hand, and with pick and jackhammers,rescue workers begin recovery operations at the scene of the bombing almost immediately after the explosion on 23 October 1983.
Photograph by Mike Lyongo, Black Star
24th MAU Chaplain George W. Pucciarelli shows the strain of his ministrations to the living and the dead.
Arnold E. Resnicoff, who had arrived on Friday, 21 October, to conduct memorial services at the MSSG headquarters for the slain jeep driver. Both chaplains had run down to the BLT headquarters site. "I kept looking for the building. As I came around the edge of the shrubbery, I found out that the building wasn't there anymore," remembers Pucciarelli. "It was leveled . . . I could see the grey ash and dust just all over the place, on jeeps, on grass, on trees, on all the rubble that was down there. And then suddenly, I began to see things move within the rubble, and then I realized that these things . . . moving were our fallen comrades, were those who were wounded."63
The two chaplains began digging through the rubble wi others, seeking the injured and the dead. Chaplain Pucciarelli continued:
I had my vial of oil and my stole on and I started giving last rites to the dead and seriously wounded. I remember I kept yelling for corpsmen and for assistance . . . as people were starting to come down the stairs toward the building. 'Over here, there's a man hurt over here, get a stretcher, bring him out of here,' and just going from one part to another was what I did for the whole time there. I would say the I probably saw in the first day 150, easily, wounded or dead. . . .
I would stay day and night as they were pulling out the bodies, just the flash of faces that would go through your mind of . . . these guys who would talk to you, no matter what faith they were--Catholic, Protestant, Jewish. This was my second float with them and knowing some of their families and some of their kids and now realizing they were gone was just again a horrendous thought, that so many had been wiped out in one fatal blast.64
Within a short time, Italian and Lebanese forces joined the rescue efforts. Despite their own problems, the French sent a contingent to the blast site, as did the British and the Lebanese Red Cross. "I kept seeing the same faces over and over again. It was remarkable how much work they did."65 The MAU owned no heavy equipment capable of lifting the large blocks of steel-reinforced concrete to get to those who were still alive, as well as to those who were dead. Within a short time, the Lebanese construction firm of Oger Liban, which had provided such extensive assistance following the bombing of the American Embassy, arrived with large cranes and other needed heavy equipment. lebanese civilians came to help, but some individuals were apparently there just for other purposes, e.g., looting. Chaplain Pucciarelli apprehended a number of such looters and had them thrown out of the area. Meanwhile, snipers fired intermittently at the rescue scene.
The count of casualties continued to mount. Back in the United States, Americans found that their favorite Sunday television programs were being continually interrupted by special news reporting about the bombing.Throughout the day, satellite pictures of the bombing appeared on American television screens. Viewers could see the extent of the damage; bodies being carried out; the shocked faces of Marines as they went about their grisly business. The story dwarfed all others. Almost immediately, the country and the world were plunged into mourning.
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. KlineSixth Fleet Jewish Chaplain LCdr Arnold E. Resnicoff wears a camouflage yarmulke given him by Catholic Chaplain Pucciarelli when one he had was lost.
Photo courtesy of Claude SalhaniA Marine wipes a tear from his eye as he avoids sniper fire being placed on the rescue teams searching for survivors in the bombed BLT headquarters building.
Parents, wives, friends of the 24th MAU Marines began their vigil--anxiously awaiting the casualty lists. Many old Marines, and young Marines, too, wept bitter tears of rage, frustration, and sorrow at the tremendous and senseless loss of life. Marine families in Camp Lejeune and its Jacksonville environs, and Americans throughout the country, began wondering if "presence" in Lebanon was worth the loss of a single Marine.
As rescuers continued pulling bodies from the building, they faced a major problem in identifying the dead and injured. Many of the men had removed their identification tags before going to sleep the night before. These dogtags, normally worn around the neck on chains, made sleeping uncomfortable. Many of the troops slept in their gym shorts or other athletic gear, which were not marked with their names as uniform items were required to be. Compounding the problem was the fact that all of the BLT's service record books and medical records were in the battalion administration offices in the basement of the destroyed building. Most were not recovered for several days. Some were never recovered.
The MAU began by identifying the living. Lists were made of those who had been in the building and survived. Some sort of identification was made of everyone, living or dead, who was evacuated from LZ Brown, ". . . maybe just a name, maybe a Social Security
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline
Marines operate rental Lebanese heavy equipment at the bombed-out building.
USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline
Lebanese rescue workers recover a body from the ruins of the destroyed BLT headquarters.
number, something, but we knew how many actual people were on the bird and who they were."66
The first aircraft to evacuate the severely injured arrived at Beirut International Airport at about 1030 on the 23d. It was an Air Force C-9 "Florence Nightingale" from Germany and specially equipped for medevacs. The C-9 was not capable of carrying a large number of litter patients, but it had a surgical team on board. It carried out a number of the walking wounded and five litter patients.67
Shortly after the arrival of the C-9, a Royal Air Force C-130 arrived. It took off at 1421, headed for Akrotiri, Cyprus, with 20 more of the severely wounded Americans on board. Meanwhile, Air Force C-9s and C-141s were landing, loading, and taking off immediately for Naples, Cyprus, or Germany. The Beirut airport had been closed for several days before the explosion, but it was opened for these flights despite the risk of incoming fire.
The Phibron continued to send working parties to the bombed site from its five ships. Colonel Geraghty reported that the Oger Liban construction firm's workers and the Italian contingent were still using their heavy equipment to clear the site. He also reported that all access roads to the MAU compound and outlying companies had been barricaded with sand-filled barrels and rolling stock.
On 24 October, President Francois Mitterand of France visited Beirut to inspect the bomb damage at the French billet. He also visited the BLT building site and paid tribute to the dead Marines. Meanwhile, rescue efforts continued day and night with little sleep for the survivors.
Back in Washington, senior officials had been in motion ever since receipt of the initial flash message that announced the bombing. Shortly after being notified by the Marine Corps Command Center, the Commandant received a telephone call from the President, who was in August, Georgia, telling him that he was cutting short his weekend vacation and would be returning to Washington as early that morning as possible.68 Mr Reagan asked General kelley if he could join him for a meeting of the National Security Council at 0930. During this meeting, the situation in Beirut was briefed and a number of options were discussed.
It was decided that the NSC members should study these options and return later in the day for more comprehensive discussions. At this later meeting, the President appointed General Kelley as his personal representative, and directed that he go as rapidly as possible to Beirut to determine what additional security requirements might exist to protect his Marines further. As General Kelley left the White House Situation Room, the President put his arm around the
general's shoulder and said "warmly and sincerely, 'Vaya Con Dios'--Go with God!"69
At approximately 0900 on 24 October, the Commandant's party left Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington on board Air Force Two. The party consisted of General Kelley; Congressman John P. Murtha; Presidential Assistant Edward V. Hickey; Brigadier General Mead; Marine Colonel Matthew P. Caulfield from the White House Military Office; Lieutenant Colonel Bruce R. Greisen, head of the Counterintelligence Branch, Intelligence Division, HQMC; and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Robert E. Cleary.
The plane arrived at Frankfurt during the early evening. As General Kelley left the plane, an Air Force colonel advised him that a flight from Beirut bearing remains of 140 Marines who had been killed in the bombing had just arrived. General Kelley went immediately to the site, and watched as young airmen from the Air Force tenderly and respectfully removed each casket from the C-141 aircraft. While Lieutenant Colonel Frank Libutti, the Commandant's senior aide, did not accompany the Commandant at this point, he recalled that "just form talking to him later, after the fact, that it was a terribly emotional situation."70
Early on 25 October, while Marines were landing on Grenada, the party left Stuttgart by helicopter for the U.S. Air Force Regional medical Center in Wiesbaden. The most poignant moment of this part of the trip came when General Kelley met Lance Corporal Jeffrey L. Nashton in the intensive care ward. Nashton was in a ". . . critical conditions with more tubs going in and out of his body than I have ever seen."71 The Commandant continued, "When he heard me say who I was, he grabbed my camouflage coat, went up to the collar and counted the stars. He squeezed my hand, and then attempted to outline words on his bedsheet. When what he was trying to write was not understood, he was given a piece of paper and pencil, and then wrote 'Semper Fi.'" General Kelley read this, his ". . . face became animated in a great combination of joy and tremendous pride all wrapped around this very heavy emotional environment. . . . This guy in a single act, in a moment, captured . . . the courage of that man and love for the Corps and his country. And more than anything, the faithfulness, the loyalty . . . the opposite of despair, you know, 'Semper Fi.'"72
General Kelley arrived in Beirut early Tuesday afternoon, 25 October, and was met by the new U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon and an old friend, Reginald Bartholomew, and General Richard L. Lawson, Deputy Commander in Chief of the European Command. he immediately went to the BLT headquarters to see the
Gen Paul X. Kelley, Vice President George Bush, and 24th MAU commander, Col Timothy J. Geraghty discuss the situation during recovery operations after the bombing.
extent of the damage and witness ongoing rescue operations. While there, the 24th MAU received warning of another terrorist attack, which did not materialize.
That evening, General Kelley conducted a closed meeting in Iwo Jima's flag mess with General Lawson; Sixth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Martin; Mr. Hickey; Marine Brigadier General Ernest T. Cook, Jr., Deputy J-3 of EUCOM; General Mead; Commodore France; and Colonel Geraghty. Colonel Geraghty briefed the group on the current situation, and what actions he had taken to improve the defenses.
Vice President Bush arrived on board the Iwo Jima early the next morning, 26 October, and was briefed on the situation by Colonel Geraghty and Commodore France. Subsequently, he toured the ship's sick bay, where he presented Purple Heart medals to injured Marines and sailors.
The Vice President then visited the site of the bombing, followed by a call on President Gemayel, accompanied by Ambassador Bartholomew, General Kelley, and General Lawson. When the Vice President left Lebanon, the Commandant then called upon General Tannous, whom he had met before. Of this meeting, the Commandant's aide recalls, ". . . the meeting was characterized by the very positive interaction of the obvious dynamics between General Kelley and General Tannous . . . sort of old warriors, then trusted veterans . . . there is a charisma there that was very obvious to even the most casual observer."73
For the remainder of the day, General Kelley met with other MNF commanders, and visited the site of the terrorist attack against the French contingent. At approximately 1700 that evening, the Commandant called a meeting at the headquarters of the 24th MAU to discuss the contents of the report he would make to the President. This meeting included all of the principals, including Ambassador Bartholomew and General Lawson. Once the general outline and contents were agreed to, the Commandant and his party (less Congressman Murtha who had left earlier) flew out of Beirut International Airport bound back to Washington, with an overnight stop at Naples. The next morning, General Kelley visited Marines and sailors in the Naval Hospital in Naples, where he presented Purple Hearts to injured.
During the return trip, the Commandant prepared a hand-written, 23-page outline on a yellow, legal-size tablet, which would be the basis for his official report to the President.
Immediately upon his return to Washington, the Commandant was advised that beginning Monday, 31 October, he would participate as the principal witness in a number of Congressional hearings on the Beirut bombing. in preparation, during the weekend of 29-30 October, General Kelley participated in round-the-clock meetings and discussions with lieutenant General Miller, the FMFLant commander; 2d Marine Division commander, Major General Gray; and his principal staff members to assist him in the preparation of his appearance on the Hill. His primary guidance to his advisors was that regardless of the consequences, "the Marine Corps must tell it like it is."74
On Capitol Hill, General Kelley opened his 20-page statement by saying that the attacks on 23 October in Beirut were not against just the Marines and the French, but against the free world.75
He then gave his reason for requesting the Secretary of Defense to establish an independent inquiry into the events leading up to the bombing. The Commandant set the Beirut scene the Marines faced and described their mission (which he said was not "a classic military mission") giving the background for that missions. He avoided discussion of the political or diplomatic reasons for the Marine presence in Lebanon. "It is not the place of a Marine to discuss those imperatives for military employment."76
General Kelley spoke about the mission of "presence" and what it meant to the Marine commanders of the MAU. He outlined what each deployed MAU had faced in Beirut, and how the situation was subject to constant change with no corresponding change of mission. The Commandant then discussed the phase that began on 26 September 1983, when a ceasefire had been declared, and when warning of a terrorist threat had been raised again by the intelligence community.
He pointed out that since 1 June 1983 over 100 car bomb possibilities had been developed. All the makes, colors, and license plate numbers of these cars were provided the Marines by intelligence sources and protective measures were taken. General Kelley described what took place on Sunday morning, 23 October, and why he believed that "only extraordinary security could have met the massive and unanticipated threat."77 Continuing, he said that he believed that Beirut Marines had been pinpointed for destruction by non-Lebanese elements. He then listed the initiatives that were underway or contemplated for increase security of the MAU. He also said that the 24th MAU was in the process of decreasing the vulnerability generally associated withy large troop concentrations. Specifically, the steps being taken were to:
Position Lebanese Armed Forces armored personnel carriers at the BIA terminal and at the traffic circle in front of the airport.
Restrict vehicle access to command posts to emergency and military vehicles only.
Restrict civilian pedestrian access to the command posts to one location.
Have MAU units in an indefinite "Condition 1" (highest level) alert status.
Block and reinforce all entrances to the command posts.
Reinforce all perimeter fence lines adjacent to rifle company positions.
Position an additional .50 caliber machine gun to cover avenues of approach into the MAU command post.
Establish additional guard posts throughout the MAU area, and to request an additional rifle company from Camp Lejeune to provide security during the period of the recovery operation.
Establish mobile reconnaissance patrols with antitank weapons within the BIA perimeter.
General Kelley further noted that Headquarters, 2d Battalion, 6th Marines command elements had arrived at Beirut on 25 October to replace the BLT 1/8 command elements and that definitive action was underway to strengthen the 24th MAU positions and to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attacks by isolating and barricading command and control and support areas.78
In summary, General Kelley said:
Our security measures were not adequate to stop a large heavily laden truck, loaded with 5,000 pounds of high explosive, travelling at a high speed and driven by a suicide driver, which executed the attack in seconds from start to finish. This 'flying truck bomb' was an unprecedented escalation of the previous terrorist threat, both in size of the weapon and method of delivery. I must continue to emphasize, however, that under our current disposition, restrictions, and mission, we will always have vulnerabilities, and that the other side will make every effort to exploit them.79
He then added two final comments. The first had to do with a news story which said that Colonel Geraghty had received a warning of the bombing threat two days before the incident. In response to that report, General quoted Colonel Geraghty, who said:
Comment made to media was a general statement on car bomb warning. At the weekly intelligence ting between MNF Intl Officers and the Office of Beirut Security, a listing of suspect car bombs, complete with car descriptions and license plate numbers, is disseminated to the MNF by security officials. These car descriptions are copied and disseminated to our posts. Since our arrival, at least 100 potential car bombs have been identified to the MNF. After the attack on our convoy on 19 October 1983, the car bomb threat was quite obviously real to the USMNF; however, specific information on how car bomb attacks were to be conducted (i.e., kamikaze) or a description of the large truck that conducted the attack on the BLT were never received by the 24th MAU.80
The Commandant addressed the charge that, when he was asked in Beirut the previous week whether he thought that security was adequate, he had answered "yes" despite the undeniable fact of the bombing. He explained:
Five thousand pounds of high explosives destroyed a four story steel reinforced concrete building. It was a heap of rubble. For over fifty hours, day and night, young Marines clawed at steel and concrete--more to save the injured who were trapped at the time than to recover the dead. The emotional scars were already deep--'Why me?' they asked. 'Why am I alive and my buddies dead?'
Their Commandant was asked, 'wa security adequate?' I replies yes--it was adequate to meet what any reasonable and prudent commander should have expected prior to dawn on Sunday, October 23, 1983. And I want you to know in that atmosphere my remarks were directed to weary and frustrated Marines.
Let me phrase what I was saying in a different way: If you were to ask whether the security around the headquarters building was adequate to protect the occupants against a 5-ton Mercedes truck carrying 5,000 pound of explosives at high speed--my answer would be NO!
And, if you would ask me whether the commander should have known, given the explosion at the Embassy in April, my answer would again be NO! Both instances involved a terrorist bombing from a motor vehicle, but there the
USMC Photo by LCpl Brenda KusayMajGen Alfred M. Gray, 2d Marine Division commander, addresses the more than 5,000 people attending the memorial services at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on 4 November. Present were President and Mrs. Reagan, Gen Kelley, and other dignitaries.
Rainsoaked Marines attending the memorial services at Camp Lejeune pay a final tribute to Marines, soldiers, and sailors who died in Beirut and Grenada.
USMC Photo by LPcl Brenda Kusay
similarity ends. The delivery system was totally different as was every other aspect of the of the two incidents.
For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, I urgently requested the inquiry previously mentioned to determine the facts in an atmosphere that is conducive to such an inquiry. Knowing the Secretary of Defense as I do, and the respect I have for Admiral Long, there is no question in my mind that it will be a complete and thorough examination of this awful tragedy. I suggest we all await the board's findings.81
Another matter of national concern to which General Kelley addressed his remarks was the manner in which the Marine Corps reported its casualties. He pointed out that in the impact of the destruction of the BLT building and the subsequent tragic loss of life, the casualty reporting procedures for BLT 1/8 was delayed. It was necessary to proceed slowly in reporting for the sake of accurate identification and proper notification to the next of kin of the dead Marines, as well as the wounded. Because of the size of the task facing the Marine Corps:
. . . and the painfully slow progress in this regard, the decision was made to release the names of those Marines who survived this disaster. We did not do this before for obvious reasons. The process was slow, mainly because of the need for complete accuracy. We didn't want to hurt anyone needlessly. Marines and members of your staffs worked tirelessly to ensure that timely and accurate information was released. The enormity of the situation is still upon us, and no one could feel more remorse that I do over the prolonged suffering caused to many families by unavoidable delay in notifying them of their loved one's status.
The Marine Corps is proud of many things, but nothing more than the way we take care of our own. I want each of you to know that everything humanly possible is being done to facilitate the process.82
The Commandant ended his testimony by saying, "The perpetrators and supports of this challenge to the rights of free men everywhere must be identified and punished. I will have little sleep until this happens."83 Shortly after the Commandant's Capitol Hill appearance, a commission headed by Admiral Robert L.J. Long, USN (Ret.) was appointed by the Secretary of Defense and began its investigation.
On 4 November, the Commandant accompanied President and Mrs. Reagan and other high government officials to a nationally televised memorial service held outdoors in a heavy downpour of rain at Camp Lejeune. Five days later, General Kelley sent the following message to the 24th MAU, still in Beirut:
Subj: Outpouring of Concern for Lebanon Marines
1. Since the tragic events of 23 October there has been an outpouring of concern from people and organizations throughout the world for you. From small towns in middle America to the far corners of the world, I have received hundreds of letters and telegrams from sympathetic and appreciative individuals and organizations expressing their heartfelt concern for Marines and sailors of 24th MAU and your families and their deep appreciation for your sacrifices and your continued dedication to duty.
2. The tremendous volume of letters and telegrams received precludes presenting extracts from even a fraction of them; however, I have chose a few salient ones that I felt were worthy of passing on.
A. From the Commandant General Royal Marines, "All Royal Marines grieve with you over your losses in Beirut and your families are very much in our minds."
B. From Northside High School, Memphis, TN, "Northside Cougars care for our Marines in Beirut. . . . We send our love and prayers."
C. From a former Marine in Alabama, "Want you to know that we support you and all your endeavors. We want you to know that if we are not with you in body, we are with you in spirit."
D. From the Swiss Military Attache, "I;m shocked by this terrible act of violence and would like to express to you my condolences."
E. From LtGen Park Hee Jae, Commandant of the Korean Marine Corps, "ROK Marines offer their condolences to those U.S. Marines who sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom."
F. From the Mayor of St. Petersburg Beach, FL, "The city government and its employees with to extend their deepest sympathies for the loss of American lives in Beirut."
G. From the Commanding Officer,1stBn, Royal Welch Fusiliers, "Our deepest commiserations on your recent losses. . . ."
H. From a young woman in Milwaukee, WI, "May God watch over all of you."
3. Similar messages were received from the German Navy, the Brazilian Marine Corps, NATO, Retired Dutch Marines, and a host of other sources throughout the United States and around the world. It heartening to know that so many people outside our Corps care so much for our Marines and sailors and understand and appreciate the difficult and demanding mission that has been given to 24th MAU.
4. As always you and your brave men are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you and Semper Fidelis!84
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (5) * Next Chapter (7)
 24th MAU SitRep No. 1, dtd 25Mar83.
 FMFLant LOI 5-83 for LanForSixFlt 2-83, dtd 4Feb83.
 24th MAU SitRep No. 9, dtd 22May83.
 Col Timothy J. Geraghty intvw dtd 28May83, pp. 4-5, hereafter Geraghty intvw I.
 24th MAU ComdC, Jun82.
 Long Commission Rpt, pp. 74-75.
 24th MAU Comdc, Jun83.
 24th MAU SitRep No. 13, dtd 19Jun83.
 24th MAU ComdC, Jun83, p. 2-9.
 Ibid., pp. 3-4.
 Geraghty intvw I, pp. 7-8.
 24th MAU ComdC, Jun83, pp, 2-3.
 Ibid., p. 2.
[13a] In the first half of July, the MAU was visited by: General Sir John Stanier, Chief of Staff of the British Army; Vice Admiral M. Staser Holcomb, Deputy CinCUSNavEur; Vice Admiral Edward H. Martin, commander of the Sixth Fleet, who had relieved Admiral Rowden; Major General Keith A. Smith, commanding general of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, whose son was a Marine captain serving as the BLT 1/8 air liaison officer; Brigadier General Robert J. Winglass, commanding general of the 2d Force Service Support Group; and VIP flights carrying in Secretary of State Shultz; General Vessey; Marine Brigadier General Ernest T. Cook, Jr., Deputy Director, J-3, EUCOM; and Air Force Brigadier General Edward J. Heinz, J-2, EUCOM. In addition to these visitors, Colonel Geraghty also hosted and briefed Congresswoman Beverly B. Byron, and Congressmen Nicholas Mavroules, W. Henson Moore, and Thomas J. Huckaby. Another visitor the MAU, no stranger to Beirut, was Colonel Robert B. Johnston, who now commanded the 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune.
 24th MAU ComdC, Aug83, p. 2.
 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
 Ibid., pp. 2-4.
 Earlier recognizing that the situation in Beirut was becoming such that the time would come when they would have to return fire in self defense, Commodore France and Colonel Geraghty joined developed an alert system for both Phibron ships and the Marines ashore, with Condition 1 being the highest state of alert and 4 the least.
 24th MAU ComdC, Aug83.
 Ibid., pp. 2-8.
 Maj Robert S. Melton intvw, dtd 19Nov83, p. 4, hereafter Melton intvw.
 Ibid., p. 28.
 Ibid., p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 27.
 24th MAU ComdC, Sep83.
 LtCol Harold W. Slacum intvw, dtd 21Nov83, p. 5, hereafter Slacum intvw.
 24th MAU SitRep Nov. 245, dtd 11Sep83.
 24th MAU ComdC, Sep83, pp. 2-3.
 Long Commission Rpt, p. 32.
 24th MAU ComdC, Sep83, pp. 2-6.
 24th MAU SitRep No. 25, dtd 11Sep83.
 Mead Presentation, pp. 37-38.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 24th MAU ComdC, Sep83.
 24th MAU SitRep No. 26, dtd 18Sep83.
 Slacum intvw, pp. 9-12.
 Col Timothy J. Geraghty intvw dtd 2Nov83, pp. 11-14, hereafter Geraghty intvw II.
 24th ComdC, Sep83, pp. 2-7.
 The Cobra belonged to HMM-165, the air combat element of the 31st MAU, embarked on Tarawa.
 24th ComdC, Sep83, pp. 2-9.
 Ibid., pp. 2-10.
[*] Upon his return to Washington, Congressman Stratton wrote the Commandant:
Dear General Kelley;
I wanted to take the opportunity to write you concerning the truly outstanding service of one of your officers, Colonel Timothy Geraghty, Commander, 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.
As you know, I had the honor recently to lead a delegation of 10 members of the Committee on Armed Services to Lebanon to review the difficult military and political problem firsthand. During our visit, we were able to spend several hours with Colonel Geraghty and his men at Beirut International Airport.
I know I speak for all the members of the delegation in expressing nothing but the highest praise for Colonel Geraghty and, of course, the personnel of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit. The circumstances presented by U.S. participation in the Muntinational Force (MNF) involve extremely difficult exercise of judgment by Colonel Geraghty as the on-site commander balancing the safety of his men with a political requirement to minimize the level of U.S. involvement in the area. It was apparent during our visit that the U.S. participation in the MNF was contributing to stability in Lebanon. This success can be attributed in no small part to the performance of Colonel Geraghty.
The Marine Corps and the United States of America can be justly proud of the service being performed by Colonel Geraghty.
Samuel S. Stratton
Head of Delegation
Congressman Samuel S. Stratton ltr to CMC, dtd 6Oct83. Handwritten at the bottom of the letter was the note, "We also are deeply grateful for the outstanding assistance General Mead gave our delegation."
 24th MAU SitRep No. 28, dtd 2Oct83.
 24th MAU ComdC, Oct83, pt. 2, pp. 2-3.
 24th MAU SitRep No. 30, dtd 16Oct83.
 LtCol Laurence C. Medlin intvw dtd 20Nov83, pp. 10-11, hereafter Medlin intvw.
 24th MAU ComdC, Oct 83, pt 2, pp. 2-4. The MAU operation report for the 15th notes that there was one observed kill.
 CTF 62 msg to CTF 61 dtd 230500Z. This message was immediately passed up the line of command by CTF 61, who amplified it with the information that the explosion was caused by a car bomb or truck carrying explosives. Commodore France also notified Washington that he had activated medevac helicopters as well as the medical teams on all Phibron 8 shipping.
 Geraghty intvw II, pp. 18-19.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 Slacum intvw, pp. 18-19.
 This is a report submitted when U.S. forces are attacked by a hostile force.
 Geraghty intvw II, p. 20. Within 24 hours, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin C. Kelley, Jr., had arrived with his BLT 2/6 headquarters--which was now redesignated BLT 1/8--and was joined on 30 October by his Company E, 24th ComdC, Oct83, pt 3, pp. 2-3.
 Slacum intvw, p. 20.
 Ibid., p. 22.
 1stLt Stephen N. Mikolaski intvw, dtd 20Nov83, p. 6, hereafter Mikolaski intvw.
 CTF msg to NMCC 230-743Z. The Beirut local time of this message was 0943. For his mass casualty evacuation plan, Commodore France had previously made arrangements for casualties to be flown to the RAF hospital on Cyprus.
 LCdr George W. Pucciarelli intvw, dtd 21Nov83, pp. 9-10, hereafter Pucciarelli intvw.
 Mikolaski intvw, p. 18.
 Melton intvw, p. 15.
 CMC comments on draft ms, dtd 23Jun83, hereafter CMC comments.
 LtCol Frank Libutti intvw, dtd 7Feb84, p. 1, hereafter Libutti intvw.
 Eve Zibart, quoting General Kelley in "Wounded 'Semper Fi' Marine gets a General's Four Stars,Washington Post, 16Nov83, p. 1.
 Libutti intvw, pp. 7-8.
 Ibid., p. 16.
 CMC comments.
 General Paul X. Kelley remarks to Senate Armed Services Committee, dtd 31Oct83, p. 1, hereafter CMC Statement. See Appendix D for the complete statement.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 12.
 Ibid., pp. 15-16.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Ibid., pp. 17-18.
 Ibid., pp. 18-19. Ironically, upon his return to Camp Lejeune with the 22d MAU in June 1983, Major Farmer remained for the changeover of staffs and then was transferred to Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, where he was assigned as head of the Casualty Section. He had not been in this new billet two weeks before the attack occurred. Major Farmer and staff set up a 24-hour telephone watch to take the thousands of calls received from anxious relatives. This condition also prevailed in the Division of Public Affairs.
 Ibid., p. 20.
 CMC msg to 24th MAU, dtd 9Nov83.