Sunday, October 23, 2016

33 Years to the Day.

Although to most people it's either entirely forgotten, or just a footnote to history, I always take today to remember the people we lost in Lebanon.  It was a Sunday morning then, too.  People were still sleeping when a big gas truck loaded with explosives drove into the Marine barracks at the Beirut airport and exploded inside. Hezbollah did it, at the behest of the Iranians. The United States never retaliated for it, and now we send them plane loads of cash in the middle of the night.

In those days, there wasn't any Al Qaida or ISIS, but there was the PLO. The Palestinian Liberation Organization. They were a bunch of skulking back shooters. Their targets were always civilians. Schools, school buses, old people. Think the Munich Massacre or Leon Klinghoffer being thrown into the ocean in his wheel chair, and you have the right bunch.

They had set up in Jordan, but the Jordanian King, Hussein, set his Bedouin Army loose on them on September 16, 1970. The Jordanians wiped the floor with them, and the ones who could get away ran into Lebanon, where they  took over wide swaths of the country and set themselves up as rulers. Lebanon was just a hodgepodge of warlord states, with a weak to nonexistent government. It was ruled by whoever had the most guns at the place you happened to be.

The PLO started coming down into Israel and killing civilians, and the Israelis, who never lack resolve or courage in dealing with terrorists, went after them hammer and tong. They invaded Southern Lebanon.  Their original intent was to go maybe 40 kilometers past the Litani river. If they cleared that, they could keep the PLO from shelling Northern Israeli settlements.

For reasons that are essentially political and uniquely Israeli, the Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, kept the operation going.  The Israelis tangled with the Syrians, and with different Islamic militias, and with the PLO.  They surrounded Beirut and were about to wipe out the PLO.

But the U.S. State Department saw an opportunity to curry favor with Islam. They sent a fat rug merchant named Philip Habib to negotiate a "resolution."  The Israelis were not overly enthusiastic about clearing Beirut in house to house street fighting, and eventually it was agreed that the PLO would abandon their vast weapons stores , evacuate Lebanon, and be dispersed among sympathetic Arab countries. But there was a snag. Nobody had asked the sympathetic Arab countries, and none of them wanted these "heroes" in their own backyard. 

So great wads of money changed hands, concessions to the Arabs were made, and the PLO was indeed evacuated, most of them to desert camps in North Africa where they eventually wandered off and exited the stage of world history.

 Troops from France, England, Italy and the United States were sent into Beirut to oversee the evacuation. Why we were protecting Islamic terrorists was not fully understood in the Fleet, but orders were orders.

After the evacuation, everybody left and that was supposed to be it. But back in Lebanon, the factions were hard at it.

Here's a program. You can't tell the players without a program.

The guy on the left is from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Their most notable achievements were an attack on an Israeli nursery school, and on a school bus in Israel. They were largely based around Sidon  . When the Israeli Army reached Sidon in 82, the PFLP distinguished itself by entrenching in a refugee camp, using the refugees as hostages, and killing anyone in the camp who wanted to leave, since the Israelis had offered safe passage out of the fighting zone.

The figure in the middle is a Mourabitoun,  That is, he's a "savior" or "guardian". The Mourabitoun were a far left wing Islamic militia, armed and controlled by Syria. They usually allied themselves with the PLO, but every once in awhile they'd fight the PLO, for the most part over turf. 

The fellow on the right is a Druze. If anybody understands the Druze, I never met them. They have a mystic religion that they can't share with outsiders, but it seems to have something to do with a holy rock. In Lebanon the Druze usually fought the Christians and the Moslems, they stayed in the mountains for the most part. The Druze had a well developed artillery arm in their forces and they liked to shoot at the Marines down in the flatlands around the airport from their positions in the Chouf mountains overlooking the city.

 When we were there, they were led by a pop eyed little weasel named Walid Jumblatt.  He didn't have it in for the multinational peacekeeping forces, but he didn't mind killing them for the hell of it either.

When Israel  first wrote it's laws for mandatory military service, the Israeli  Druze (Druze living inside the borders of Israel)  were exempted. But the Israeli Druze elders were incensed. They demanded their young men be drafted for military service. (The Druze pride themselves on being warlike)  So the Israeli Druze serve in the Israeli Army. They do it well, largely in elite units like the border guards,  are highly respected, and have no compunction about killing other Druze in the course of duty. Nobody understands the Druze.

These are typical Palestinian "fighters."  Although they were supposed to have been evacuated from Lebanon, of course the vast majority remained and they kept up their attacks on the Israelis and anyone else who came within range.  One thing you could be sure of in Lebanon, today's friends were tomorrow's enemies, and all these groups fought each other at the drop of a hat. The Marines at the airport were sitting right in the middle of all this.

The man on the left is from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  This was a PLO splinter group. In reality, the PLO was made up of a bunch of splinter groups. They fought each other when they were not fighting the Christians, the Islamic militias, the Israelis, the Druze, or just passing bandit gangs.  The center figure and the figure on the right are "main stream" PLO, i.e. loyal to the Toad in Chief, Yasser Arafat.

Al Fatah.  originally established by Arafat in 1958.  By 1982 they were a power in themselves. Very nasty characters, they were terrorists before it was "cool" to be a terrorist. 

The Syrians.  Syria considers Lebanon a "break away" part of Greater Syria. They had two divisions in Lebanon in 1982 and they fought some toe to toe battles with the Israelis. They are old enemies. The Syrians occupied Beirut during a civil war in the late 1970's.  (In that war, the Christians and the Moslems slaughtered each other wholesale. The Moslems exterminated all the residents of one village in the mountains, killing 3000 men, women and children. They beat some of the wounded to death with welding rods.)

More Syrians.  After the bombing, President Reagan, acting on the advice of his coterie of idiots in the White House, attacked Syrian training camps in the Bekaa valley.  The CIA had irrefutable evidence that the Iranians had ordered Hezbollah to  bomb the barracks, but the Syrians were easier to get at. France attacked some Iranian training camps in the Bekaa by air (Syria and Iran are allies), but when we went in there a few days later, they shot up our aircraft and knocked down an A6 Intruder. The pilot was killed,  Jesse Jackson flew to Damascus, where Assad released the bombardier navigator (who was black) to him amidst great pomp and circumstance.

The three figures from the left are Lebanese Army.  The army was supposed to be made up of Moslems and Christians, but the Moslems always deserted as soon as the fighting  started, because the Army was always fighting the PLO, or the Moslem Militias. "fighting" is kind of a misnomer since they only had one brigade that could really fight, the rest of them were worthless. Once the Marines got in   there a  second time, (After Bashir Gemayel , the designated new President of Lebanon was blown up by the Chaumon Family, another Christian mob)  we started training them and they made decent soldiers if decently led. Their problem was that their officers were all from the upper social strata, looked down on the soldiers as animals, and most of them couldn't have led themselves out of a wet paper sack. The one decent brigade became two decent brigades, but we supported them with naval gunfire in the end, and that started everybody else shooting at the Marines , because we had "taken sides." The Lebanese Army "played" the Americans, tricking the State Department into giving them supplies the Marines needed, and into providing direct support they really didn't need, in outright combat operations. It was to identify us as allies of the Lebanese Army, and it worked. Both MAU (Marine Amphibious Unit) commanders warned Sixth Fleet about what the Lebanese were doing, which warned the CINCUSNAVEUR , which warned the Pentagon, which warned the State Department, which blew the warnings off because "the military , my dears, just doesn't understand how  these things work in Lebanon, don't you know? Really, they need to leave these matters to the professionals!"

The guy on the far right below is one of Major Saad  Haddad's Southern Lebanon Forces. Haddad was a rebel Army officer who set up his own fiefdom in Southern Lebanon, with Israeli help, and fought the PLO. His troops were Israeli trained and supplied, and were actually pretty good.

The two on the left are "Phalange."  Christian Militia, operating under the aegis of several leading Christian "Dons." The "Dons" were exactly like the mafia. They controlled hunks of territory, maintained their own armies, controlled businesses, both legitimate and illegal. They were supposed to be Israeli allies, but in reality they were no ones allies, and when they weren't fighting the PLO, the Moslem militias, the Druze or whoever, they fought each other. They were the absolute least trustworthy people in Lebanon, as far as I could tell, and it was their machinations that brought on the next round of the multinational peacekeeping force, but more on that later.....

The Israeli navy operated off the coast of Lebanon. They had patrol boats, like giant PT boats but much more capable.  I can remember being on the signal bridge of the Puget Sound one night. It's an open air bridge on the ships superstructure. The Israeli patrol boats were exchanging fire with someone ashore (God knows who), and we watched the tracers , green and red, floating back and forth between the Israeli patrol boats and the terrorists around the beach.  Tracers look really slow flying through the air, but if they are aimed at you they speed up a lot. These exchanges usually ended with big explosions ashore because the Israelis would call in artillery from their forces ashore and that would be that.  The Israelis were good at interdicting terrorist movements along the shore, but with warships from Israel, America, Britain, Italy and France just off the coast it was a real goat rope. Unknown groups in the city would occasionally take pot shots at the ships, with everything from artillery to small arms fire, even through they could not have had any idea who they were shooting at.

Imagine flying a helicopter into the Marine position ashore. Everybody and their dog in the city had assault rifles , machine guns and RPG's if nothing else once you crossed the beach. And there you'd be , in a low, slow helicopter up in the air.  I talked to one crew chief whose aircraft had taken small arms fire, and he told me his ass was biting washers out of the  canvas seat cover the whole way in.  I knew what he meant.

These are Israeli troops as they looked in Lebanon in 1982-1983.  Elite units like the paratroopers were very impressive. Israelis fought well.  They are a reserve army, in the sense that they have very small active duty forces, but they maintain reserve skeleton outfits and when they mobilize, just about every able bodied man is called up. They usually have vast numbers of older men, no longer subject to call up, who report to their old units anyway. After all, when the Israelis fight, their women and children and old people are literally right behind them. They don't have any "defense in depth" they don't have any ocean between them and the barbarians.

There was trouble between the U.S. Marines and the Israelis. It was all the fault of that fat pig Habib, and his lickspittles in the State Department. And of course, the people sitting in the White house, in air conditioned offices. The problem was that Reagan didn't want it to look like we were cooperating with the Israelis, because that might have offended some Moslems. So he forbid any exchange of liaison officers. He may have been a great actor but you could have put what he knew in a thimble when it came to military operations.

You cannot put military units in close proximity to each other without exchanging liaison officers. You can't even put U.S. Army and U.S. Marine units next to each other without doing that. You have to know what the other guy is doing, and you have to have someone with your commander, who can explain what his commander is doing and why. If you don't, there will be blood on the ground. The lowliest private knows this.

But we had Israeli troops right up to our wire, and we were not supposed to speak to them. Colonel Stokes, the commander of the Marines ashore who was eventually rotated out with his men, finally just ignored the State Department after some incidents with Israeli tanks coming into our perimeter. He set up a meeting with the Israeli General in the area, and  they ironed all that out. But not before a lot of bad blood was stirred up between the Marines and the Israeli troops. And all because of our asinine politicians.  The Israelis never shelled us, and it worked out thanks to the courage of Colonel Stokes (who, by the way, I did not like. He once embarrassed me at a big staff meeting . I was right and he was wrong, but that's a story for another time.)

There's something else, too. After the bombing, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) offered us the use of Israeli medical facilities for our wounded.  20 minutes by helicopter to the best medical facilities in the Middle East, staffed by doctors and nurses who were very familiar with battle wounds and trauma.

But the  State Department told Reagan that we could not accept this offer, as it would "offend" Moslem countries.  So instead, our wounded were taken to medical facilities on the ships, or flown to Cyprus or  to Europe.  People who could have been saved died because of this. Instead of twenty minutes, they spent hours getting to the hospitals. You know what the "Golden Hour" is? It's the first hour after you get injured. If you get to good medical care within that hour, you have a much better chance of making it than if you don't.  I'm mad when I think about this and it's hard not to use bad language.


Then there was the multinational peace keeping force. USMC,  French Foreign Legion, Italian San Marco Brigade, and a tiny detachment of British with armored cars.

Marines , 1983

Marine Infantry, 1983.  The man on the left is a Grenadier. The drawing is from a picture of Marines coming ashore in Beirut from landing craft. The middle figure is a reconnaissance Marine. The man on the right is an LVT crewman.  (Landing Vehicle Tank)

So, we had all these different groups, fighting each other, randomly.  The Marines were sent back in after the head of one of the Christian militias, who was supposed to be the next Lebanese President, got blown up by a bomb at a meeting.  Lebanon went berserk.

 It turned out the bomb was planted on the orders of another Christian militia leader, but by then they'd forgotten what they were fighting about anyway. It was just business as usual. Everybody shooting at everybody else.

All the different players  got around to shooting at the Multi National Force except the Israelis and the Lebanese Army, although with that much lead in the air in such a small place, I'm sure some of what landed in the Marine positions was inadvertent fire from those two as well.

There wasn't any stabilizing it, the Marine position got worse and worse, with sniping, small arms and heavy machine gun fire,  and very strong mortar and artillery fire , especially at night.  The Navy had to use their ships in support of the Marines, up to and including the last battleship, the New Jersey. The Marines on the ground replied with their small arms, light machine guns,  artillery and tank fire. Everyone back in the states was being told this was a "peacekeeping mission" but  the Marines in Beirut  were receiving combat pay.

Then the bombing happened and that was that. After that,  We pulled out as soon as we could without a complete loss of face. The Israelis maintained positions in Southern Lebanon for some time, withdrew, and had to go back in against Hezbollah a few years later.

Signal bridge,  off Lebanon 1983.  U.S.S, Puget Sound, flagship of the Sixth Fleet.

American warships off Lebanon, 1982

Huey going ashore off Beirut

Cobra going ashore , off the Lebanese coast. Two cobras were always on standby alert.  I only remember one occasion when they went in shooting, but it's been 33 years so I may be wrong on that.

CH-46 headed for the Beirut Airport, where the Marines ashore were forted up.  This was the mainstay logistics and assault (i.e. troop carrier)  helicopter of the Marine Corps in those days.

Directly behind the barracks was a CONEX box that had been converted into a long range communications terminal.  I spent some time there. It was run by a fellow I'd known before over the years in the Marine Corps.

This picture was taken on the Thursday before the bombing. I was going out to the Puget Sound. She was going back to Naples, and the Colonel I worked for said I could go with her, spend the weekend with my wife, and come back when Puget Sound returned the following week.

Sunday morning , October 23, 1983 I got up early. My wife was still asleep. I made some coffee and went out on the balcony of our little villa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We didn't have a phone. Only very senior officers had phones in their villas. Phones were scarce in Italy then.

I turned on the radio, and tuned it to the Armed Force Radio and Television Network, which was how most of us got our news. The announcer said there were reports of a large scale attack on the Marines in Beirut. I got dressed, took the car, and went into Naples to the AFSOUTH headquarters where my staff , COMSTRIKFORSOUTH, was located. Things went down hill from there.

And that's what I remember today.

You can stop people on the street (I've done it) and ask them if they remember the Beirut bombing, and hardly anyone has a clue what you are talking about. But that two year endeavor was big news in America 33 years ago.


  1. A better recounting of the politics of the Middle East than I have read anywhere else. nicely done! Thanks for putting all that down.

    You know, there's that old saying "Africa will always be Africa". I suspect there's a similar feeling about the Mideast.

    Glad you're back up and posting.

    1. The Israelis are straight shooters. The Egyptians are when they have a military government. The Jordanians are respectable.

      As for the rest of them in that part of the world, when the next big asteroid hits earth it ought to land right in the middle of Iraq and take Syria, Iran, Libya,Iraq, and all the rest of them with it.

      I'm trying to remember all this before I get senile.

  2. Harry - this post hit hard...really hard. because in less than a week, it will be the 25th anniversary of the Alert Crash, Boxtop 22. i know that you love history and i am not sure if i have shared this with you before. the crash happened in late october, i did my first tour of alert in february. i really hate c-130's. i had friends on the plane that crashed and what they went through was devastating. i worked a little over 72hrs doing HFDF trying to find that plane....

    i can only imagine how you felt while serving in beirut...the crazy political decisions, the crazy groups you had to deal with, the idea that the Marines were ever there in the first place...

    i have tried my darndest to read middle eastern history and politics and let's just needs a phd in "absolutely nothing making sense for about 7,500 years" in order to get even the tiniest grasp. thanks for sharing your deep understanding and personal experience. i appreciate that.

    sending much love, as always. hope this comment makes sense. you just stirred up some memories. your friend,

    1. I remember that crash. The C-130 was a Canadian Forces aircraft, was on final to Thule in Greenland and clipped a mountain. Seems like they blamed it on pilot error, said the guy tried to shoot a visual approach instead of an instrument approach but that always sounded pretty far fetched to me.

      The Israelis have a joke about the Middle East.

      A camel was standing by the Suez Canal, and a scorpion came up and told the camel he needed a ride across the canal.

      The camel said no way, he knew the scorpion would sting him.

      But the scorpion said he wouldn't, because then he knew both he and the camel would drown.

      So that made sense to the camel. He let the scorpion get on his back, and started swimming across the canal.

      Half way across, the scorpion stung him. Just before they both drowned, the camel asked the scorpion why he'd done that.

      The Scorpion said "because this is the Middle East, you fool."

      That about sums it up.

      Your comments always make sense. Some things you don't forget, no matter how long you live.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Harry!

    I remember the bombing very well. I kept thinking, "Dear Lord, not another Viet Nam. Didn't we learn anything?".

    And the thinking on how screwed up the Middle East is is spot-on. They've been fighting each other over there since the beginning of recorded history, and probably before then, too.

    I spent a good part of my career traveling around there before I quit that job and moved out here to Kommiefornia. The educated "professional" people I dealt with seemed to be OK, but the lower level workers had such hate in their eyes it made me uncomfortable.....

  4. I can never understand why the state department hates the Israelis so much, and loves the Moslems to distraction. Maybe because so many them are left wing, ivy league wimps.

    I remember you have a lot of time in over there. You're lucky you finished up there before the days of ISIS.

    1. Harry, the SD's hatred for Israel goes back to FDR and his cabinet. The whole group of FDR's people, in the White House and in the State Department, hated the Jewish people.

      This is the same group of dirtbags who supported Mao and the Communists in China (who spent more time fighting the Nationalists than the Japanese) and screwing up the Nationalists.

      Remnants of this bunch are still occupying the State Department, much to this nation's detriment.

      Aren't Democratic Socialists such wonderful and enlightened people?

    2. For whatever reason, there does seem to have been a serious dislike for the Israelis since before 1948 and ever afterwards. I read a book called "Genesis", one of the best I've seen about the origin of the Israeli State. It talks about how the State Department had decided not to recognize Israel, how Harry Truman overrode the State Department and made the U.S. the first nation to do so, and all the machinations the Secretary of State went through to try to circumvent the President, right up to the last moment. I know for myself , from my own personal experience as a staff officer on the Admirals staff, that the representatives of the Department of State who were involved in Lebanon were rabidly anti-Israeli. General Alexander Hague , who was Secretary of State at the start of the Israeli sweep through Southern Lebanon, was fired by Reagan because he tried to explain to Reagan's inner circle that it was not an invasion but a preemptive strike. Hague was the only unbiased person surrounding Reagan that I am aware of and they got rid of him soon enough.

      I have heard it said that because the British Foreign Office did not like the Israelis, that our Secretary of State at the time emulated that attitude and it's just become corporate culture at State. I also think that there is an inherent antisemitism in the Ivy League culture that infests the State Department to this day. "The best and the brightest" look down on everyone else, so why not on Israel as well.

  5. harry!
    i know some lebanese Christians. they were worried sick about their relatives.
    when elephants fight, the grass suffers.

    thanks for the history. never heard it so clear before nor did i know there were so many combatants.
    to call the chamoun family 'Christian' is a misnomer.
    it brings shame on the true servants of the Lord.what a shameful, incompetent mess.

    1. I think "Christian" and "Moslem" in Lebanon are more political labels than anything to do with religion. I was at a briefing for COMSIXTHFLEET where the intelligence guys said there were over 50 "first tier" militia organizations operating in and around Beirut at the time. I only touched on a few of them. For instance, I didn't mention AMAL, with whom we had frequent contact. For the most part I wanted to convey to people the total chaos caused by a situation where there was no government, no police, and so many armed factions shooting at all comers.

  6. I remember some of it, but didn't live it like you did. Think I had a subscription to TIME back then. Still didn't make much sense to me. I kept wondering what the heck we were doing there.

    Glad I'm not the only one who couldn't figure out the Druze.

    The only thing that could possibly explain our involvement in that mess was our sucking up to the oil exporting countries. What other reason could we have? That's why we hang the Israelis out to dry now and then.

    1. I think Ronald Reagan had this overwhelming desire to be seen as a Knight in Shining Armor, coming to the rescue of the oppressed Lebanese. The man knew absolutely nothing about the Lebanese situation, but his advisers, particularly from the State Department, told him the evil Israelis were killing all the innocent civilians. I have never been able to discover definitively who came up with the idea of a multinational peace keeping force for Lebanon, but I would be willing to bet a hat full of silver dollars it was the State Department. The longer we were there, the further from reality their diktats became. Reagan invariably sided with the State Department over the Pentagon as things got worse and worse. All the tactical decisions were made by politicians, not by the military. Putting the Marines at the airport, with the mountains looking right down their throats, was idiotic and we paid for it because it made it easy for the various bad guys to shell the base. Not responding to the attacks during the first period of being there at the airport was another really stupid move dictated by the State Department and particularly by the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon , and his good buddy Philip Habib. We were supposed to show restraint by firing flares over the artillery positions that were killing Marines. The whole thing was an appalling exercise in stupidity, and the people making the bad decisions were not at risk. Then, when it ended in disaster, the only people disciplined were Marine and Navy officers. All the mincing pimps at State who were the real cause of this, and all the power hungry self seeking advisers around Reagan, just skated with no censure.

  7. Great history lesson Harry. Many of us were too young to remember this, but it helps to know the insider scoop.

    I'm reading the book "Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates" by B. Kilmeade. An excellent narrative of another obscure slice of American History. It's evident from the book that some things never change. --Troy

    1. I've read some things about the Barbary pirates, because the Marines were intimately associated with that episode in American History. Part of the Marine Corps Hymn acknowledges involvement with "the halls of Tripoli."

  8. Yeah, TOO MUCH time over there!

    The last time I was there I was in Iran, right when things started to fall apart in the late 1970's.

    My flight was delayed leaving while we sat on the taxiway and watched Jimmuh Cahtah's FIVE C-5 Galaxy loads of "Riot Gear" land.

    I flew out on an SAS flight, as I was advised NOT to leave on a US-flagged carrier. Got a ride to the airport in an M113 that also had some other American "civilians" in it. We got to the airport and it was pandemonium. My overweight luggage full of equipment which had cost me over $200 in excess luggage fees going in just got tossed on the conveyor by the SAS guy at check-in, who also shook my hand, and wished me a safe flight home.

    My flight was absolutely packed with women and children, and I was one of the very few adult men aboard.

    Delayed take-off, delayed landing in Copenhagen, missed flight back to Chicago, and no non-stops for several days. SAS offered to put me up, but was also very understanding that I wanted to get back to the USA. Flew FIRST CLASS to JFK at no additional cost, and then hopped on an American flight to Chicago.

    "Lost" luggage, customs screw-ups, and numerous other things, but SAS took care of everything, and I will forever be grateful to them.

    I finally got home two weeks before the Shah left for good....

    1. It's never fun to be in a Third World country when things are coming apart at the seams. You did well to get out when you did. My father in law kept gasoline, bribe money and visas buried in the backyard when he had his family in Nigeria. He figured he could make it to the border if things went bad.

    2. I remember realizing for the first time about the differences in when a tv show gets taped and when it is aired. A month after the Shah left, and the weirdbeards were rejoicing in their aloha snackbar way, I watched a "Matchgame" episode where the winner won an all-expense paid trip to the Vegas of the Middle East - Tehran. My dad and I had a long discussion on the nature of reality that day.

      God, I was sooooo innocent when I was a kid.

    3. Tehran was a city of HUGE contrasts.

      There were large high-rise buildings served by a modern six-lane highway in the Northern (I think) part of the city, and then when you went South the city became older, and more run down. Pretty much like most big cities, I guess.

      As you continued South you went through areas that were out of the middle ages. Open air markets, OPEN RUNNING SEWERS, and it got really bad by the time we were out of the city headed South on our way to the job site.

      And open burning of garbage everywhere!

  9. I knew by the post tittle what you where writing about. Sorry about the friends you lost that day. Seems like the politicians have been screwing us for as long as mankind as walked the earth. Thanks for sharing your story and option on this dark day in Marine History. I'm glad I have gotten to know you.

    1. I'm getting older and I would like to record some of these things for a number of reasons, among which are my two grown kids. We have never talked about anything that happened over there because they are not interested in it and I am not comfortable with talking to them about it.

    2. "My father in law kept gasoline, bribe money and visas buried in the backyard when he had his family in Nigeria."

      I'd like to hear more about this if you get the chance.

  10. Hey Harry,


    On that pic that showed the helo departing the Puget Sound's flight deck on the starboard side sits a Captain's Gig. We had a different gig when I was onboard and on that boat davit we got rid of the gig and got a fifty foot work boat. I climbed up and down into that workboat about 100 times at least.
    I gotta go

    I will comment more later.

    1. I'd like to have that boat for tootling around the lake here! Puget Sound was almost always tied to the pier when I embarked, but off Lebanon those boats were usually shuttling people from ship to ship for meetings, etc. The Big Wigs went by helo, of course.

  11. October of 83 I was in college with struggles of my own. But I do recall the events. In the later 80s I met the fellow on the stretcher in this image.

    1. I hope the guy did ok in his later life. Not very many who were deployed to Lebanon stayed in. Even a lot of the Senior Staff NCO's and field grade officers retired, which was unusual. But the "Long Commission" report used the Marine commander on the ground, Colonel Geraghty, as a scapegoat. This was so egregious that a lot of Marines refused to go along with it. Anybody who did not was risking their career, especially if they were vocal about it. The whole thing left such a bad taste in people's mouths that many decided it was time to live their rest of their lives doing something else. This didn't reflect resentment of the Marine Corps, but of the way it had been used and abused, and then blamed for what happened while the civilians who caused this disaster were not criticized or punished.

    2. When I met him he was in the navy crewing on P-3 Orions out of Brunswick Naval Air Station. He took flying lessons with us at a local field. He seemed quite a well adjusted and easy going fellow despite his experiences.

  12. Hey Harry,


    I had to think about what I would write on this post. I can say some stuff about how it would be nice if most of moslim world was nuked out existence etc, etc, but it would make no sense from a larger point of view.

    The larger point of view is that there are too many people on the planet and some of those people have it in their minds through culture and religion to kill other people just because they exist.
    Its because of culture, religion and overpopulation. The lack of land and resources, etc, etc.

    It will only get worse because I think in the bigger picture we, the U.S. (and the rest of the world) are setting up for another big conflict over in the Middle East, Persian Gulf. We are just waiting on another 'Arch Duke Ferdinand' black swan event to get things started.

    Its all about population control and gaining access to money, resources, land etc. The cycle will never end. Its part of human condition.

    1. I tend to think it's a struggle between cultures, and that the issues you raise are part of that. It's been going on since the advent of Islam some 1300 years ago. The tide swings both ways over time, but there's little doubt in my mind that Islam is winning now, and hasn't been in such a position of ascendancy over the West since they controlled much of Spain in the Middle Ages.

    2. Hey Harry,


      You make a good point. I do see Islam as winning. They may take Southern Europe, Britain and parts of the former United States after the union is dissolved, but I'd bet them old Slavic countries and the Russians will 'give 'em hell and a few 'Vlad Tepe's charactors will pop up every now and then. On our union dissolving. As I have stated before, I believe it is inevitable conclusion based how our culture is being destroyed. A country without a unified culture becomes a balkanized mess. 'Diversity runs counter to 'a Union' Lebanon is a prime example.

    3. Yo CaptainCrunch and all,

      Islam may win temporarily in a specific area, but it truly is a culture of failure. The only true successes it has in an area is when it uses other cultures' stuff and ideas and people in order to survive. Kinda like a parasite, once the host dies, it either dies or is forced to try to find another host.

      Eventually potential hosts will rise up and fight.

      Unfortunately, unless Europe gets rid of the weirdbeards now, the culture, artwork and people will be lost in time, and we'll only be able to see what once was in books and in our minds.

      Sad. Very sad.

    4. Hey Andrew,


      You are correct.

      Islam may win big certain area's but will fold eventually because the 'religious culture' of islam is stuck back in 750 AD.

    5. Things may change in Europe. US news doesn't report it at all, but if you look at European news on the internet, a lot of people are fighting back now. Of course, the European newscasters always deprecate the resistance, but you can still get a glimpse of what is really happening from their stories. Sweden just expelled several hundred Moslems for criminal activity. In one Swedish town, where a 22 year old female social worker was stabbed to death by Moslems in their camp, 75 men wearing hoodies and masks attacked immigrants in the town , handed out fliers calling on Swedes to resist, and promised to continue their activities until Moslems left the town.

      In Russia, in Murmansk, 55 illegal immigrants rushed a bar and started groping women. The men in the bar attacked them, there was a serious beat down, and the Russian police came, added some righteous baton work to the mix, and hauled them all off. The videos are on the internet for anyone to see. The Russians don't like illegals, and the last anyone saw of them they were being marched off down the street by police while the citizens mocked them.

      In France vigilantes have destroyed several camps and fought a pitched battle with African squatters in Paris.

      Not one word of this was reported here, as far as I know.

  13. Thank you Harry for sharing this. Your first hand knowledge and experience taught me so many things that I did not know; so many things that have never been shared by the media. As usual, our stupid leaders chose to make concessions to the Arabs and not offend the Muslims. Why they always turn their backs on Israel and support Mulims is something I do not understand. Thank you for your service and your willingness to speak the truth. Jana

    1. I don't understand this compulsion to appease Islam at any cost myself. I don't understand why people like Obama, prejudiced though they are, can't see that by shunning Israel and letting Islamists do whatever they want, they are putting America in real danger.

      It's hard to just sit by and watch all this happening, but I don't know what's to be done about it. Trump is probably our last chance. If Clinton has 8 years, following 8 years of Obama, we're finished.

  14. Our condolences to those who lost loved ones. Also hoping that the wounded are now recovered as much as possible.

    1. The only people who seem to remember it are those who had family there, or who were there themselves. I suppose, given all that has happened since 1983, that's inevitable. We've lost so many good people fighting Islam, and now we have a President who bows to the Saudi King and does all he can to facilitate the growth of Islamic Influence in America. And unless there's a modern miracle, we are going to have another President who feels Obama wasn't forceful enough in his actions to exalt Islam.

  15. I'll have to read up on people we lost in Lebanon. I was only 7 or 8 when that happened. It's sad when stories aren't talked about, and they are a slice of history.

    I think Mica's more interested in politics than I was, or am. Isaak's like me. Today we were talking about the pipeline story. Mica wanted to know more.

    1. The best book I know of was written by the historian Eric Hammel. It's called "The Root." It's long out of print, but you can get used editions on the web for a few dollars. There's one by a Lance Corporal called "Peacekeepers at War" that isn't bad. Very little was ever published about the Beirut incident.

      It's good that Mica's interested in what's going on. The world he is going to be an adult in is not looking too promising right now, so the more he knows the better he can cope with it.

  16. Thanks for this Harry. I remembered most of this as you recited it. It seems very concise from what I actually do remember. You reveal things that we the public never knew.

    1. One reason I wanted to try to be more comprehensive this year is that the people who were involved are getting older now. Not much was ever published about the Beirut intervention. I have scoured the web for years, and bought everything I could find on it, and it amounts to about six books. It just wasn't something people wanted to write about in general, I guess.

  17. I cannot believe it was 33 years ago. The disturbing thing is the Time covers....the photos could be from the Middle east today! It has not really changed despite the mega millions spent is support and peace keeping initiatives and all the rest. Tragic. It is also a tragedy that nothing was learned from Beirut then!
    God Bless you Mr. Flashman!

    1. Fiona, nothing will ever change when Moslems are concerned. They are 6th Century mentalities living in a 21st Century world. The West hasn't known how to cope with them since the end of the Crusades. The sad thing is that they are winning, absorbing and destroying.

    2. You may remember a publication call Reader's Digest...I was reading an account of Marine's in Lebanon in '58 and a machine gunner asked his CO how close to action they were...the CO answered, "how much trigger pull is on that .30cal?"...the gunner responded with the appropriate answer..."that's how close we are" stated the CO...later on when I reported to the 10th Marines (1961), there were Marines who had served there, fast forward to 1983 after joining the Marine Reserves (14 years broken time)reporting for Drill Week-end, the bombing had occurred and local newspapers were there thinking we had been alerted and preparing to deploy...had a young Marine with same last name, Cooke, and at formation, he would say "Good Morning Pop", since I was an "old" man of 40...later, he augmented to the Active Duty side and was in Beirut and killed in the bombing...his father was a retired Sgt Maj...we're all connected...Semper Fi...