The 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing
Beirut,Lebanon….Israel has just initiated Operation Peace For Galilee…a military operation which involved the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) invading Lebanon to a buffer zone between Syria and the PLO forces which faced Israel. It was an operation which was previously approved by the U.S. State Dept. under then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. June 6th 1982 saw the IDF storm numerous hideouts and arrest numerous PLO sympathizers. The country of Lebanon itself was also facing civil war. The U.S. support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon taken in conjunction with U.S. support for Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) alienated many.
Bachir Gemayel was the legally elected president, but he was a partisan Maronite Christian and covert associate of Israel. These factors served to disaffect the Lebanese Muslim and Druze communities. This animosity was made worse by the Phalangist, a right-wing, largely Maronite-Lebanese militia force closely associated with President Gemayel. The Phalangist militia was responsible for multiple, bloody attacks against the Muslim and Druze communities in Lebanon and for the 1982 atrocities committed in the PLO refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese Forces (LF), while the IDF provided security and looked on. Causing large areas of Lebanon to be completely collapsing in chaos.
October 23,1983….6:22am, it was a Sunday early morning for Staff Sgt. Stephen Russell who was on watch duty. While everyone was asleep in the 5 story military barracks. Sgt. Russell was in front of the building facing West talking to 2 other Marines when he heard the sound of a two by four breaking. he then heard the sound of a truck engine revving up behind the building. Meanwhile in the back of the building sentry guard Lance Corporal Eddie DiFranco, noticed a truck heading for the sentry security checkpoint after chambering a round into his double action bolt rifle, but it was too late the truck had barreled his way down the checkpoint and into the barracks main entry.
The suicide bomber, an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari was facing Russell smiled, detonated his explosives, which were later estimated to be equivalent to approximately 9,525 kilograms (21,000 pounds) of TNT. The explosive mechanism was a gas-enhanced device consisting of compressed butane in canisters employed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) to create a fuel-air explosive. The bomb was carried on a layer of concrete covered with a slab of marble to direct the blast upward. The damage to the barracks was devastating, and the shockwaves caused a 70 mile riple on all sides of Lebanon to be seen and felt. Even shattering windows of neighboring houses 2 miles away.
Afterwards, Staff Sgt. Stephen Russell was trying to pick himself up off the ground, while a gravely injured Marine howls for help, his body tattered from the shrapnel of the blast. Russell would have injuries to his arms and legs. Recovery operations was immediate, and after 5 days of search and rescue it was finally over. In it’s aftermath 307 were killed while 75 were injured. It was considered the biggest non-nuclear explosion since WW2. The investigations into the bombing was also immediate. And Iran and Syria were the first primary targets for blame by France and the U.S. Both repeatedly denied the attacks and condemned them.
On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawing from Lebanon largely because of waning congressional support for the mission after the attacks on the barracks. A fanatic Iranian group erected a monument in a cemetery in Tehran to commemorate the 1983 bombings and its “martyrs” in 2004. In July 2012, federal Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Iran to pay more than $813m in damages and interest to the families of the 241 U.S. peacekeepers that were killed, writing in a ruling that Tehran had to be “punished to the fullest extent legally possible… Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism.”