Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

AP PHOTOS: 30 years after Marine barracks blast

AP PHOTOS: Breathtaking destruction marked the 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, British soldiers give a hand in rescue operations at the site of the bomb-wrecked U.S. Marine command center ...
FILE - This Oct. 23, 23, 1983 file photo shows the scene around the U.S. Marine barracks near Beirut airport following a massive bomb blast that destr...
FILE - This Oct. 23, 1983, file photo shows the scene of a truck bombing on a U.S. Marine base near Beirut airport in Beirut, Lebanon. This was a rock...
FILE -This Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo shows service members digging through rubble after a truck bombing on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut,...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, U.S. Marines stand guard at a bunker in front of the Marine barracks building that was destroyed by a...
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24,1983 file photo, rescuers continue to probe the wreckage of the U.S. Marine barracks a day after a suicide truck bomb n...
FILE - In this Oct. 26, 1983 file photo, U.S. Vice President George Bush, center, wearing a flak jacket and steel helmet, is briefed at the site of  a...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, rescuers prepare to lower a U.S. Marine on a stretcher down to safety below, in Beirut, Lebanon, fol...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marines carry their dead comrades away from the four-story barracks building that was destroyed...
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24, 1983, file photo, rescue workers are shown carrying the body of a U.S. Marine killed by the bombing of the Marine barr...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, service members search through rubble after a suicide truck bomb attack on the U.S. Marine barracks ...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, an injured service member is carried on a stretcher after a suicide truck bomb struck the U.S. Marin...
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marines and an Italian soldier, right, dig through the rubble of the battalion headquarters, in...
FILE - This Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, shows the scene at the U.S. Marine base near Beirut airport, Lebanon, following a suicide truck blast t...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, a victim of a truck bomb at the U.S. Marine barracks is carried to a waiting helicopter, in Beirut, L...
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Paul Kelley, left, awarded the Purple Heart to Marines wounded in the terrorist...
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marine Lovelle Moore from East St. Louis, Illinois, wounded in a truck bomb attack on his barracks in B...
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, the U.S. Marine Corps flag flies at half-staff after a truck bomb destroyed the Marine barracks in Be...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, British soldiers give a hand in rescue operations at the site of the bomb-wrecked U.S. Marine command center ...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - This Oct. 23, 23, 1983 file photo shows the scene around the U.S. Marine barracks near Beirut airport following a massive bomb blast that destr...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - This Oct. 23, 1983, file photo shows the scene of a truck bombing on a U.S. Marine base near Beirut airport in Beirut, Lebanon. This was a rock...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE -This Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo shows service members digging through rubble after a truck bombing on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut,...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, U.S. Marines stand guard at a bunker in front of the Marine barracks building that was destroyed by a...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24,1983 file photo, rescuers continue to probe the wreckage of the U.S. Marine barracks a day after a suicide truck bomb n...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 1983 file photo, U.S. Vice President George Bush, center, wearing a flak jacket and steel helmet, is briefed at the site of a...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, rescuers prepare to lower a U.S. Marine on a stretcher down to safety below, in Beirut, Lebanon, fol...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marines carry their dead comrades away from the four-story barracks building that was destroyed...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24, 1983, file photo, rescue workers are shown carrying the body of a U.S. Marine killed by the bombing of the Marine barr...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, service members search through rubble after a suicide truck bomb attack on the U.S. Marine barracks ...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, an injured service member is carried on a stretcher after a suicide truck bomb struck the U.S. Marin...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 24, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marines and an Italian soldier, right, dig through the rubble of the battalion headquarters, in...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - This Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, file photo, shows the scene at the U.S. Marine base near Beirut airport, Lebanon, following a suicide truck blast t...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, a victim of a truck bomb at the U.S. Marine barracks is carried to a waiting helicopter, in Beirut, L...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Paul Kelley, left, awarded the Purple Heart to Marines wounded in the terrorist...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 1983, file photo, U.S. Marine Lovelle Moore from East St. Louis, Illinois, wounded in a truck bomb attack on his barracks in B...

Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983 file photo, the U.S. Marine Corps flag flies at half-staff after a truck bomb destroyed the Marine barracks in Be...

It had been a massive, four-story building that had withstood air strikes and artillery -- now reduced to a mountain of rubble. Enormous chunks of concrete, their twisted steel reinforcements ripped bare, balanced precariously on piles of debris. Only cracked concrete frames on the ground floor bore any semblance to what had stood there before.

As I watched crews struggle to remove wreckage from what remained of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, I thought to myself, "My God. How did anyone survive?"

The Oct. 23, 1983 truck bombing that leveled the barracks near Beirut's airport claimed the lives of 241 American service members in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces abroad since World War II. The attack, amid Lebanon's civil war, was one of the United States' first experiences with the suicide bombings that over the past 30 years have become a trademark of Islamic militants.

By the time I arrived, the bodies were gone, and survivors evacuated. The day of the blast, I was in Cairo, where I was The Associated Press' bureau chief, and I traveled to Beirut in the immediate aftermath.

For me the shock was all the more intense because I had known that building -- and doubtless some of the Marines who had perished inside.

During repeated assignments in Lebanon, I spent hours on the barracks' roof, along with other journalists, observing militias on the hills above hit their rivals and sometimes the Marines with artillery fire.

I recall watching visiting Marine generals scurrying for cover one afternoon when militias lobbed mortar shells near their convoy -- to the amusement of some younger Marines.

The roof was also the site of the Marines' link to a radio network with the French and British to exchange information about battles around Beirut. If you could tolerate the blazing sun and long periods of boredom, it was a great place to track the fighting.

The structure -- once an administrative building for the airport -- was rock-solid. It had survived hits by Israeli air and artillery fire in 1982, well before the Marines moved in.

Yet it was pulverized by a truck bomb that exploded with the force of 21,000 pounds of TNT just before 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday. Minutes later, a second suicide bomber blasted the French military barracks a few miles north, killing 58 paratroopers and the wife and four children of the Lebanese janitor.

Shiite militias that were just starting to coalesce into what is now Hezbollah were behind the attacks.

The Marines, along with French and British troops, arrived in Beirut in August 1982. The Marines were to supervise the evacuation of Palestinian guerrillas under a deal to end Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

Instead, the experience became a textbook example of "mission creep."

After the Palestinians departed, the Marines did as well. But they were ordered back about two weeks later when the assassination of Lebanon's new Christian president sparked new fighting among the country's factions.

Syrian-backed militias frequently fired on the Marines' base and barracks, about 10 miles from downtown Beirut, to pressure the United States, which supported the Lebanese government.

A month before the bombing, U.S. warships fired on Syrian-backed militias, and French jets attacked militias in the Bekaa Valley.

Among anti-government factions, those attacks shattered any notion of neutrality.

The Marine commander, Col. Timothy Geraghty, recalled telling his staff that "we were going to pay in blood."

Within months after the bombing, the U.S. Marines were out of Lebanon. The civil war raged for another seven years.

Now on the site of the barracks is a large building of the Lebanese mail service, Liban Post, inside a closed military zone near the airport. On one side, access is barred by a military checkpoint and on the other, by a checkpoint of Hezbollah, now Lebanon's most powerful force.

The following is a gallery of images from the time of the Marine barracks bombing and today.

____

Robert H. Reid, Berlin bureau chief, was chief of bureau for The Associated Press in Cairo from 1982-1986 and has covered Middle East events since 1978. Follow him at: http://twitter.com/rhreid .

Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo


Updated : 2021-04-21 16:33 GMT+08:00