Chapter 8:
Beirut V Goes Home

On 26 October, as Vice President Bush visited Beirut, Company B positions took 15 mortar rounds over a two-hour period. They returned the fire with 21 rounds of high-explosive 81mm ammunition. Before the month was over, the MAU would suffer three more wounded, no of whom needed to be evacuated.1

As attempt to recover bodies and clean up the site continued, the MAU worked hard to prevent a recurrence of the suicide attack. Earthen- ad concrete-filled barricades were placed in all open areas to forestall high speed entry by attackers. Colonel Geraghty established a fortified perimeter within the Beirut airport area. He ringed the MAU command post with an anti-vehicle ditch and an anti-=vehicle berm, along with the following:

  1. The airport road was reduced to two from four lanes.

  2. Access into the perimeter was restricted to Multi-National Force and U.S. Embassy vehicles only.

  3. The number of entrances to the MAU command post was reduced to three, all of which were covered by .50 caliber machine guns and blocked either with a five-ton truck of heavy steel gates made of railroad tracks.

  4. M-60 machine guns, loaded with 7.62-mm armor-piercing ammunition, covered all roads and open areas leading into or in the proximity of the airport area.

  5. With the exception of those Lebanese who worked at the airport power plant, all civilian personnel were excluded from the compound and all Lebanese Armed Forces troops were relocated outside the fenceline.

  6. The number of interior guard posts was increased and all posts were armed with LAAWs (light antitank assault weapons.).

  7. All but 10 security guards were removed from Green Beach.

  8. The Corniche in front of the Durrafourd Building and the British Embassy was blocked off an the position reinforced by an armored assault vehicle.2

The Marines remained alert to the possibility of kamikaze-like tactics by fanatics wearing stolen uniforms and driving captured MNF and LAF vehicles. Fighting continued in the suburbs of Beirut during the last days of October, while "The myriad of intelligence reports involving planned bombings of the MNF and diplomatic locations coupled with rumored U.S. retaliation in the southern suburbs only increased the already high tension in Beirut.3

On the 31st, an amtrac was convoyed to the Marine guard positions at the Embassy to provide increased security there. Meanwhile, the newly arrived COmpany E, BLT 2/7, was inserted into positions on the northeastern portion of the perimeter, relieving Company C, which now moved into the location formerly held by the 155mm howitzer battery. The artillery was moved to new emplacements in the southwestern part of the airport because it had come under heavy fire in the north and was unable to guarantee immediate fire support when called upon to provide it.

By the end of the month, HMM-162 had accumulated 7,435.4 accident-free hours of deployed flight time, exceeding the record of any squadron previously deployed with the Sixth Fleet. A combination of factors, such as medevac, VIP, cargo, mail, and diplomatic flights resulted in this record, which was coupled with a high percentage of aircraft availability, 90 percent, attesting to the round-the-clock efforts of the maintenance crew.

A sorely tried Colonel Geraghty commented at this time:

While the cutting edge of the MAU took many nicks this week, it proved to be made of well-tempered steel. Those that have tried to dull the blade have found that it can't be done from a distance and they have had to move close aboard. . . . The support from the MARG during the bombing was without equal. They placed their ships in harm's way and were the first to respond. Many Marines owe their lives to the sailors of TF 61.4

An FBI study later revealed that the explosion which collapsed the BLT building had been caused by explosive material wrapped around tubes of propane or another type of highly volatile gas. This boosted the explosive force of the bomb to the equivalent of more than 12,000 pounds of TNT. In addition to collapsing the building, this was enough to make a crater measuring 39 feet by 20 1/2 feet and 8 feet deep. In doing this, the explosion destroyed a seven-inch-thick concrete floor, which was reinforced by steel rods, each 1 3/4 inches in diameter. The FBI also concluded that, even if the truck had not reached the lobby, and had exploded instead on the roadway at a distance of 330 feet from the building, nearly the same amount of damage and a significant number of casualties still would have resulted.

A large congressional delegation arrived on 29 October


USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline

Flanked by American diplomatic personnel as well as representatives from other Multi-National Force units and the Lebanese Armed Forces, Col Timothy J. Geraghty presides over a memorial service in front of the MAU headquarters building in early November.

Photo courtesy of Francoise de Mulder

A camouflage utility cap and artificial flowers poignantly mark what is left of the destroyed Marine headquarters days after the site had been cleared. Not much else remains.


and was briefed and given a tour of the MAU positions. Other high-level visitors at the end of October and the beginning of November were General Richard L. Lawson, Deputy Commander, EUCOM; Admiral Richard N. Small, CinCUSNavEur; and Lieutenant General Howard F. Stone, Chief of Staff of EUCOM. On 4 November, the MAU held an emotion-filled memorial service for the men killed in the bombing. Present at the services were Ambassadors Bartholomew and Deputy Chief of Mission Pugh and their wives, together with representatives of the LAF and MNF units.5

Both COmpanies A and E came under fire on the night of 5 November, as the advance party of the 22d MAU arrived for the turnover. Beginning at 1650, 7 November, all units on the perimeter came under intense fire, which continued for six hours and was ended only by a heavy downpour of rain and hail.

Because of the difficulty in supporting Company A at the Lebanese University, and the threat these Marines faced by being isolated from the rest of the MAU, Colonel Geraghty decided to abandon the position and pull the company back into his lines. At 0321 on 8 November, a convoy arrived at the university to withdraw Company A. Mechanical difficulties with one of the vehicles delayed the return trip and the convoy did not return to the airport until three and a half hours later. Company A then embarked on board the Harlan County, where it remained until her return to the States. This move essentially left the British contingent isolated across from the university on the Old Sidon Road.

The Marine Corps Birthday was celebrated in Beirut on 10 November with a cake-cutting ceremony held at the MAU headquarters. Of this event, Colonel Geraghty wrote, "Our birthday celebration was low key, but traditional, and from our watch, 24th MAU added another page to the history of Marines in Lebanon."6 On the 10th, Colonel Geraghty received the following message:

Before long you will turn over your responsibilities to 22d MAU. All Americans are deeply in your debt. Even as we grieve for your sacrifice, we take pride in your excellence as marines on this, the 208th Birthday of the Corps. Please know we are thinking of you and look forward to welcoming you home--Our Marines. 'Semper Fidelis,' Ronald Reagan.7

With a week left until its relief by the 22d MAU on 19 November the 24th MAU's Marines remained on alert, receiving some intermittent fire and returning it when warranted, but ready to leave Lebanon. Morale was very high, but the shock of the bombing and the resultant loss of life began to tell within a few days after the 23d. For many of the younger Marines, who had never before faced death or the dying so closely, it was a traumatic experience. Chaplain Pucciarelli counseled many Marines who had lost good friends, and even relatives, in the bombing. Some of the older and more mature Marines spoke to the younger ones, trying to get them to talk about their feelings to provide an emotional outlet. With respect to this period and the bombing, the MAU chaplain later reflected:

You know, we can read about Pearl Harbor, you see pictures, but being there [in Beirut] again, the sights and the sounds and the smells and all the senses would be more of a sobering event than reading this in a history book. So a lot of these young lads were overcome by the scene, and of course, it took its toll that particular day. But I think, working at the site for four days or more, helped a lot. I think it was kind of a [catharsis].8

Elements of Lieutenant Colonel Ray L. Smith's BLT 2/8, fresh and eager after a successful operation in Grenada, began landing at Beirut International Airport on 17 November. At that time, BLT 1/8 began to backload on Phibron 8 shipping. By 2330 the next day, all members of the 24th AMU were re-embarked and ready to leave for home. Brigadier General Jim R. Joy,* the 22de MAU commander, relieved Colonel Geraghty as commander of the U.S. contingent of the Multi-National Force, Beirut at 1000 on 19 November. Two hours later, the Iwo Jima and the Portland followed in the wakes of the El Paso, Harlan County, and Austin, which had left for Rota, Spain the day before. In his last situation report from Lebanon, Colonel Geraghty stated, "24th MAU stands relieved as LF6F 2-83 [Landing Force, Sixth Fleet] and US Contingent to the Multi-National Force, Beirut, Lebanon. Proceeding on duties as assigned. Able to respond to any combat mission. Able to respond as Marines."9

Phibron 8 arrived in Rota on 24 and 25 November to a warm reception that was totally unexpected. The naval station commander extended post exchange hours to accommodate MAU/MARG personnel and to ensure that they had an opportunity to relax and shop.


USMC Photo by SSgt Robert E. Kline

24th Marine Amphibious Unit Marines wash down their vehicle at Beirut International Airport before it went on board Phibron 8 shipping, headed for Rota and the States.

Bus transportation was provided to and from the ships on a regular schedule for liberty parties. The wives' clubs at the base organized "welcome home" parties where ". . . tons of find food of the most enjoyable sort, free beer/soda, a band and singers, and massive amount of good will and friendliness were dispensed by these charming hostesses in a gracious and warm manner. It was a reception which cannot be topped for the amount of care shown. The overflowing of concern was unexpected and deeply appreciated."10

On 29 November, while in the Atlantic heading for Morehead CIty, the 24th MAU received the following message from the Commandant:

    Subj: USMNF

  1. Courage, sacrifice and heroism characterized the Lebanon tour of 24 MAU. Under the most trying and difficult conditions each unit's performance shines as a witness to the world that Americans stood firm in the defense of peace and freedom.

  2. The exemplary bravery of the MAU's Marines, sailors, and soldiers has been indelibly written on the pages of American history. No one--standing or fallen--served in vain. Every man's devotion to duty will continue to be an inspiration to all who desire to live as free men.

Photo by author

BGen Jim R. Joy (right) relieves Col James P. Faulkner as 22d Marine Amphibious Unit commander on board the Guam (LPH 9) off Beirut on 17 November 1983.


  1. On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank God for men like you in the service of this country.

    General Kelley sends.11

The 24th Marine Amphibious Unit arrived at Morehead City to a warm welcome from the commanding generals of the 2d Marine Division, 2d marine Aircraft Wing, and 2d Force Service Support Group, plus families, bands, and national media attention.

Two days later at Camp Lejeune, Colonel Geraghty's 24th MAU passed in review before General Kelley, who welcomed the Marines and sailors home with the following remarks:

When I met the first flight of your fallen comrades as they arrived at Dover, Delaware, after the mass murder of 23 October, I asked the question--Lord, where do we get such men? As you stand here today I ask the same question. Where do we get such men of courage--such men of dedication--such men of patriotism--such men of pride? The simple answer is that we get them from every clime and place--from every race--from every creed--and from every color. But each of you has one thing in common--you are a Marine or that special brand of navy man who serves alongside Marines.

Two days ago an entire nation opened its heart in grateful recognition of your safe return.

You gallant Marines and sailors of the 24th have earned your rightful place in the glorious history of our Corps. You can stand tall and proud in the knowledge that you have selflessly given of yourselves in the service of your country, your Corps, and of free men everywhere.

In the joy and emotion of your safe return, let none of us forget those brave Marines and sailors who made the supreme sacrifice--or forget the wife who will never again see her husband--the child who will never see its father--or the parent who will never see their son. They, too, have made the supreme sacrifice!

By the authority given to me this day by the Secretary of the Navy, I hereby recognize your significant contributions, under conditions of great adversity, by authorizing each of you to wear the Combat Action Ribbon.

You and your precious families--those loved ones who have participated in a lonely and anxious vigil these past months--have my deepest and sincerest respect and admiration. God bless you!


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[1] 24th MAU SitRep No. 31, dtd 31Oct83.

[2] CTF 62 msg to CMC, dtd 7Nov83.

[3] 24th MAU ComdC, Oct83, pt 2, p. 2-7.

[4] 24th MAU SitRep No. 31, dtd 31Oct83.

[5] 24th MAU SitRep No. 32, dtd 6Nov83.

[6] 24th MAU SitRep No. 33, dtd 13Nov83.

[7] White House msg to CO, 24th MAU, dtd 10Nov83.

[8] Pucciatelli intvw, p. 18.

[*] In view of the need to provide additional supervisory assistance and coordination of the activities ashore in Beirut, the Commandant authorized the appointment of the Assistant Commander, 2d Marine Division, Brigadier General Joy, as commanding general of the 22d MAU on 3 November. When Phibron 4 shipping carrying the 22d MAU from Grenada to Beirut arrived off Lebanon on 17 November, General Joy went on board Guam and formally assumed command of the 22d, relieving Colonel Faulkner, who then became chief of staff. Prior to his promotion, General Joy had served as Fleet Marine Officer, Sixth Fleet and was totally familiar with the Lebanon situation.

[9] 24th MAU SitRep No. 35, dtd 21Nov83.

[10] 24th MAU SitRep No. 37, dtd 5Dec83.

[11] CMC msg to 24th MAU, dtd 29Nov83.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation