October 23rd 1983, Beirut Bombings


Drakkar - Copy


On this very day 33 years ago (it was a Sunday as well), 241 US Marines and sailors, as well as 58 French paratroopers lost their lives in two almost simultaneous attacks against the Marines' barracks and the French "Drakkar" HQ in Beirut.

In Memoriam …


Patrick Bahzad


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57 Responses to October 23rd 1983, Beirut Bombings

  1. LeaNder says:

    Wasn’t your brother among them?
    I seem to recall your brother dying there. 1983?
    RIP all of you

  2. James F says:

    May God rest their souls… As far as I know this 1988 song by Patti Smith is the only one written about the Marines. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it got a lot of play in my barracks and I can’t think of the Marines without hearing it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=022tvozftNk lyrics are on the page

  3. Martin Oline says:

    Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that somewhere someone died for me today and help me to remember to ask, “Am I worth dying for?”

  4. mike allen says:

    PB – Thank you!

  5. Travis says:

    I was a Marine in 1/8 Weapons Co. back in the mid 90’s. We had battalion formation to commemorate the event every year. I wonder if they still do.

  6. BillWade says:

    We’re having our replica Vietnam War memorial dedication this Veteran’s Day in Punta Gorda. I’ll be there and will say a prayer for the Marines and French paras who died this date 33 years ago. Thanks Patrick for the reminder.

  7. BLT 1/8 took the most casualties. I would expect them to still commemorate this event.

  8. BW, thx for the prayer

  9. mike allen says:

    An observance begins at 2pm eastern time this afternoon in Lejeune Memorial Gardens.
    I am told they will also be honoring those 58 French paras.

  10. MA,
    Thx for the info, means a lot to me. PB

  11. b says:

    May their souls rest in peace.
    I always quibble when I hear the moniker “terrorist” attack” for the incident, even though these were suicide bombing. Good that Patrick is not doing so.
    The U.S. was at that time party of the war and was firing its heaviest naval guns and the marine’s 155mm piece in support of the (partisan) Lebanese Gemayel government and army (and Israeli interests). More than 600 heavy shells, many hitting (Shia, Druze) civilian areas for lack of forward artillery observers.
    The other side (Druze, Syrians, Palestinians, Shia) had little abilities to counter that but finally found a military target they could attack. The attack achieved its aims. The U.S. withdrew. The French had argued against the U.S. active role at that time. But that was in the backrooms and the anger over the shelling hit it too.
    The Iranians are regularly accused for the attack. I doubt that. There were many possible perpetrators with sound motivations and I see no immediate Iranian motivation for such an attack. (I lack knowledge on this point though)

  12. b, I’m publishing ur post but I have to say, both on a personal and factual level, I find it quite biased.
    Sounds like you don’t really have an idea about what happened back then, especially regarding the “war in the mountain”. Thousands were displaced and this was a dirty, bloody, cruel civil war.
    As for the guilty party and individuals responsible for the cowardly Beirut attacks, they are well known. May they rot in Hell, for all Eternity.
    Amen !

  13. BraveNewWorld says:

    I always have respect to the people who stand up when their country asks them to. The members who died in these attacks certainly fit into that category.
    However we also need to remember how we got to that point if we don’t want a repeat. This was an occasion where the US really was trying to do the right thing and was willing to put American blood on the line to achieve it. But once again the US got screwed by Israel and a lot of dead Americans, French and others was the result of association with Israel and the following cover up.

  14. Eric newhill says:

    A sad day. Thank you for the post remembering it, Patrick.

  15. Outrage Beyond says:

    “In the summer if 1983, this same informant told the Mossad about a large Mercedes truck that was being fitted by the Shi’ite Muslims with spaces that could hold bombs. He said that it had even larger than usual spaces for this, so that whatever it was destined for was going to be a major target. Now, the Mossad knew that, for size, there were only a few logical targets, one of which must be the U.S. compound. The question then was whether or not to warn the Americans to be on particular alert for a truck matching the description.
    “The decision was too important to be taken in the Beirut station, so it was passed along to Tel Aviv, where Admony, then head of Mossad, decided they would simply give the Americans the usual general warning, a vague notice that they had reason to believe someone might be planning an operation against them. But this was so general, and so commonplace, it was like sending a weather report; unlikely to raise any particular alarm or prompt increased security precautions. In the six months following receipt of this information, for example, there were more than 100 general warnings of car-bomb attackes. One more would not heighten U.S. concerns or surveillance.
    “Admony, in refusing to give the Americans specific information on the truck, said, ‘No, we’re not there to protect Americans. They’re a big country. Send onlyt the regular information.’
    “At the same time, however, all Israeli installations were given the specific details and warned to watch for a truck matching the description of the Mercedes.”
    –By Way of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky, p. 321

  16. mike allen says:

    The “Organisation du Jihad Islamique (OJI)” admitted their guilt, and bragged about it.
    Those French and Americans (plus the Italians in the Multi-National Force) were sent there to provide security for the evacuation of Palestinians from refugee camps where they had been subject to atrocities by some Lebanese while the Israelis looked on and cheered.
    Those MNF peacekeepers at the airport were the target of many mortar and artillery attacks over a period of two to three months. Two Marines were killed and ten wounded by those attacks long before 23 October. I do not know about French or Italian casualties then but am sure there probably were some. So finally Reagan got off his butt and changed the ROE to authorize counter-battery fire, which is when the USS Missouri and Marine artillery came into action. I believe the Missouri was a bad decision by Reagan. Naval gunfire back in those days was not accurate and definitely not appropriate for counter-battery. But Reagan wanted a show of force with ‘Big Mo’.

  17. mike allen says:

    By the way, a word of thanks to all who rendered assistance in casualty assistance operations, including:
    Lebanese civilians, Italians, French (even though they had their own casualties to look after), Sailors, RAF and their hospital in Cyprus, and probably many others.

  18. mike allen says:

    My bad. Reagan did not re-activate the Missouri until just after the Beirut bombing. The NGF I assume was by a cruiser or destroyers. But at that time they were just as inaccurate as 16 inch guns on a BB – especially when employed perpendicular to the target line.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Patrick Bahzad
    Morts pour la France. Toutes nos condoleances. pat et marguerite

  20. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    Semper Fidelis. pl

  21. aleksandar says:

    A friend of mine from 1 RCP was there.
    146 camarades were killed in Lebanon.
    We planted a cedar in the middle of camp Beaumont.
    Never forget

  22. mike allen says:

    And to you. Also to Travis above.

  23. scott s. says:

    Not sure I agree with this assessment. Both Virginia and John Rodgers had GFCS Mk 86 which had a much better capability for NGFS than prior systems. Any way I think it was New Jersey which arrived off Beirut in early 84.

  24. b,
    As Patrick said, you’re wrong about the Druze in the Mountain War. They were armed with Syrian artillery and tanks and were quite formidable. I was there and it was as intense as any other conventional fighting.

  25. Patrick,
    I extend my condolences and prayers to you and all others who lost on that day. I never got to the airport or to Drakkar. I only knew a few of the Incursore from the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment while there. We worked together earlier. Years later I met a Marine major and two former Marines while at the “farm” who were at the airport. One was a Christian born in Baghdad and an interrogator. He reported something was up a few days before the hit, but not enough to help.

  26. BabelFish says:

    It was my privilege to care for Marines when I served. It is my privilege to be of French ancestry. They rest in the care of their Creator. May their names never be forgotten.

  27. mike allen says:

    scott s –
    No offense meant to Naval gunners. I am no expert especially on the Mk86 fire control system you mention. I am sure it is extremely accurate, particularly against hard targets on shore: bunkers, buildings, etc with a good radar cross section. But unless it was observed fire against personnel or mortar/artillery tubes in the open I would think they were maybe not quite as precise.
    Back in 1983, wasn’t that before the new high-trajectory/steep-angle-of-descent type naval guns that mimic howitzers? If so they were probably not precise against targets on a reverse slope of the foothills and mountains of Lebanon.
    I’m an old man but I was always taught that NGFS back in those days was greater than sliced bread if it was fired parallel to the front line of troops. But not quite as good if fired perpendicularly. The naval guns in my era were extremely accurate in azimuth. But perhaps not so exact in distance, possibly producing short rounds or long rounds due to the flat trajectory. Could be that was just old doctrine from WW2 and the Korean War? But it was considered gospel even in Vietnam.
    I have no idea which guns the Virginia and John Rodgers had in 83, so my comments above may be out of line. If so, my apologies. I have great respect for Sailors serving on destroyers.

  28. Jack says:

    What is the truth about who perpetrated this atrocity and why? What is the back story?
    It seems that in war and intrigue that there are many shades of grey.
    Many lives were lost in the Lebanese civil war and many hands are tainted. Like what we see in Syria now. We must feel sympathy for the many caught in the middle who just want to raise their children in peace. My condolences to those that have lost loved ones in these seemingly senseless conflicts.

  29. Pat,
    Thx a lot, I very much appreciate it. Please extend my gratitude to Marguerite as well. PB

  30. TTG,
    Thx a lot. As I told PL, your kind words are very welcome on a day such as this. Time heals all wounds, but the scars remain. PB

  31. Just for the record, New Jersey arrived late summer 1983. As for naval gunnery, afraid I’m not an expert 😉

  32. Joe100 says:

    Patrick –
    Thank you for reminding us of that terrible event and condolences to those who lost friends or loved ones in this event.
    I believe this bombing may be the source of Jim Webb’s animosity towards Iran as he covered this for McNeil/Lehrer (back when there was real journalism). I have also wondered if any of his troops from his D/1/5 days were lost in this event.

  33. F5F5F5 says:

    @Patrick Bahzhad
    Honneur et Respect.
    Ils ont rejoint Saint Michel.

  34. Booby says:

    Booby for Patrick Bahzad
    I had the opportunity to observe the New Jersey in action in VN. I served as a FAC & NGF spotter. The BB’s were awesome weapon systems. But NGF does have limitations. The flat trajectory of the rifled guns give precise accuracy laterally; but, when firing at land targets small deviations can result in major inaccuracies in range. Danger close missions are not a good idea if you’re on the gun-target line.
    I had a spotter who got a Bronze Star for directing the New Jersey’s 16″ guns against NVA automatic weapons in a bunker complex on a mountain side. He said that the 1st round was really short & impacted 100’s on meters below the bunker complex; but, the explosion caused a landslide that destroyed the entire bunker complex. Like horseshoes & grenades, close can be good enough.
    Hurling a 16′ shell the weight of a Volkswagen is a nice capability; but, the BB was not a good system for fire support in an urban area. The BB’s use in VN was limited by hilly terrain & a lack of “worthy” targets.

  35. Cee says:

    My condolences. Please tell us who you think was responsible.
    I remember reading this: Admony, in refusing to give the Americans specific information on the truck, said … we’re not there to protect Americans. They’re a big country.
    Israel didn’t give a damn about us then and we shouldn’t give a damn about them or their dreams of hegemony now.

  36. un para ne monte jamais au Ciel, il y retourne 🙂

  37. I think there has been a Senate inquiry in the US about the Marine bombings. Responsible, in the sense of having carried out the attack, Imad Mounieh and his cousin/brother-in-law … As for the actual enablers/organizers, there’s only a very limited number of suspects considering the complexity of the operation and the new MO they used.

  38. F5F5F5 says:

    As far as I know, everything pointed to Iran.
    Now for the back story.
    Back then the West, especially France, was backing Iraq against Iran because backing the ayatollahs turned out not to be such a good idea. Also, the ayatollahs were promised – and sold – a lot, including nuclear tech, and got nothing. So they got angry.
    And we got angry back.

  39. Croesus says:

    I understand your pique, Patrick, but also understand an underlying notion in b’s comment: warriors were in a war.
    At very least one has to acknowledge that whoever attacked the barracks did not attempt to achieve a warrior’s goal by attacking civilians.
    I echo b’s prayer: May their souls rest in peace.
    And I echo and amplify BraveNewWorld’s comment: Israel has dirty hands in this event. Israel has bloody hands in the attack on the USS Liberty. How much longer are US warriors going to be called upon to risk their lives and US treasure in the name of a “special relationship” with a perfidious “friend” (Israel is NOT a US ally)?

  40. drapail says:

    history is very cruel, we think about the past as abouth something that will happen never again, but the history always repeats itself, and even nowadays many horrible things happen, and the most disgusting is that we never mind them untill they touch us, don’t believe me, check it here: https://quivo.co/

  41. Croesus,
    You’re entitled to an opinion, as anybody else. I would say that a MNF peacekeeping mission is not being/going to war and the forces posture is certainly different for that kind of mission.
    AS for your “warriors attacking civilians” comment, it’s just laughable.

  42. Fred says:

    Lest we forget.

  43. Indeed “Paras never die, they jump one last time” … Part of a series of sayings that have become a commonly accepted truth

  44. Booby,
    Thx for the info ! combat in urban areas would definitely require different tools today, although back then, I don’t think it was used in that way either.

  45. mike allen says:

    Booby – Were you with ANGLICO?

  46. Croesus says:

    This writing is a memorial to people who died violently.
    Out of respect to that sentiment, arguing against your last sentence seems out of place.
    Nevertheless, that sentence is disrespectful and seems to ignore many years and events in which military forces deliberately attacked civilians in order to achieve their military goals. I stand by my initial statement: whoever attacked the military barracks did not attack civilians.

  47. oofda says:

    Thanks for this remembrance. I was a Marine serving at MCRD San Diego at the time – a shock for us all. A lot of lessons from that, that we may have forgotten.

  48. mike allen says:

    Croesus –
    Many civilians died in that attack. And just after the attack sniper fire and artillery was directed at people (including Lebanese civilians) providing casualty assistance.
    Plus the same organization that bombed the barracks, also bragged of their responsibility in using a suicide bomber to attack the US Embassy in Beirut in April 83. 63 people died in that attack, only 17 were Americans. 32 were Lebanese employees, 14 were locals passing by. So that was well over 40 dead Lebanese civilians. Another 120 were wounded, the vast majority of which were civilians.

  49. Croesus,
    My comment reflected something else: if you think the ppl who attacked those barracks did not attack civilians in other instances, you’re even more naive than I initially thought.

  50. MA,
    That’s correct and the US embassy was actually bombed twice within a year. I’m sure someone will find a way to spin this in another twisted kinda way though …

  51. oofda,
    Indeed. Those advocating for heavy US involvement in Syria certainly have forgotten that lesson, assuming they ever knew in the first place.
    Or maybe they consider US and allied servicemen to be expendables serving a greater good, thus furthering their political goals and “ideals” (hard to believe they got any).

  52. LeaNder says:

    Patrick, via Erwan Bergot, more precisely the term Armée de Terre. Was it?
    Yes it was:
    I have a nitwit question. For the record, I am aware of the history of the name, but what do the 2016 changes signify?

  53. Booby says:

    For Mike Allen:
    FAC for 3d Bn, 3d Marines early 1969. Platoon Commander in 1st ANGLICO ’69-’70

  54. Booby says:

    My Grandmother only had a 3d grade education, but was the wisest person I’ve known. I was visiting her when the Marines went into Lebanon. I boasted to her that the Marines had landed & all would be well. She told me that “they were killing each other in Bible times & they’ll be killing each other when we’re gone.” It wasn’t long before I had a lot of crow to eat.
    Hezbollah killed & injured friends in the Beruit bombing. Hezbollah hung Col Rich Higgins. While I respect Hezbollah as a capable light infantry force, I think most Marines will always hope for a payback. If I were a policy maker, I’d take any advice from Marines relative to Hezbollah with a grain of salt.

  55. mike allen says:

    Your grandmother was smarter than all of us.
    You are right about the desire for payback. But let’s hope it does not happen. Blood feuds should only be for the lawless.

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