Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 21, 2014

Today’s Devastating Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Lebanon had been torn by civil war since the mid-1970’s, and the violence had escalated when Israel invaded in 1982. A multinational peacekeeping force was in place but to no avail.

At 6:22 A.M. local time on Sunday morning, October 23, 1983, an Iranian national working for a jihadist terror organization drove a hijacked yellow stake-sided truck onto Beirut International Airport property, heading for the four-story barracks housing the 1st Battalion, 8th US Marines. At first guards assumed that the truck was the regular water truck and let it pass.  But driver Ismail Ascari suddenly sped up, tore through a concertina-wire fence and plowed full-speed into the lobby of the barracks. The truck was loaded with the equivalent of 21,000 pounds of TNT, arranged atop a slab of marble so as to channel its explosive force upward for maximum devastation.

beirutSentries were operating under “rules of engagement,” which required them to keep their weapons in Condition 4, no magazine loaded, no round in the chamber. Only one managed to ready his gun before the truck exploded, but investigators later said that the explosives were so powerful that the loss of life would have been no different even if the truck had not made it into the building.  The four-story concrete-and-steel building was lifted into the air by the blast, then collapsed onto itself and the Marines, sailors and soldiers inside, most of whom were still asleep. 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers were killed, as well as an elderly Lebanese man who worked as a custodian and vendor and who was apparently sleeping in his concession area.

About fifteen minutes later, a nearly identical attack was carried out at the nearby barracks of the 1 Parachute Chaseurs Regiment, killing 58 French paratroopers and the wife and four children of a Lebanese custodian. Many of the French soldiers were out on their balconies trying to see what was going on at the American barracks. French sentries opened fire on the truck, killing its driver, but were unable to prevent the explosion.

In all, the twin suicide bombings took the lives of 298 military personnel and six civilians, plus the two bombers. It was the worst single-day loss of life for the US military since the first day of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, and the worst single-day loss of life for the Marine Corps since Iwo Jima. Rescue efforts were hampered by intermittent sniper and mortar attacks.  The bombings led directly to the eventual withdrawal of peacekeeping forces in Beirut.

Culled from Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

Here’s a CBS news special report from the morning of the attacks, before the full extent of the horror and the death toll was known. It’s got on-scene reports and footage and is hosted by an uncharacteristically somber Charles Kuralt.

One comment

  1. I can’t believe I missed this till just recently, but it turns out that one Michael Hastings, of my hometown, was one of the Marines killed in this bombing. He was about 20 years old, and had a nephew my age who I went to school with, or a step-nephew, I forget which, but their last names weren’t the same. There’s a plaque memorializing Michael Hastings on the grounds of my high school.

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