Beirut Bombing - Marine Headquarters Before the Bomb

Beirut Bombing - Marine Headquarters Before the Bomb (Illustration) Tragedies and Triumphs Famous Historical Events Social Studies

During October of 1983, about 300 U.S. Marines lived and worked in this building - known as BLT (Battalion Landing Team) Headquarters - located at the Beirut International Airport.  Just before 6:30 on a Sunday morning - October 23, 1983 - a suicide bomber, driving a Mercedes truck, entered the compound.

It was not the first time the truck had visited the area.  About an hour earlier, the driver had entered the open parking lot, drove around it one time, then left. 

When he returned, at about 6:22 a.m., the driver circled the open parking lot twice, then revved his engine: 

This time, the vehicle accelerated to the west, circled the lot once, then headed toward the wire barricade separating the parking lot from the BLT building. Turning right, it ran over the wire barricade and sped between Posts 6 and 7 into the lobby of the building ... (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank, pp 1-2.)

Marine guards tried to prevent the truck from entering their headquarters, but they were unable to stop it:

Manning Post 7 was Lance Corporal Henry P. Linkila, who heard the truck as it sped across the concertina fence. He inserted a magazine into his M-16 rifle. He chambered a round and shouldered his weapon, but could not fire. The truck had already entered the building.

Lance Corporal John W. Berthiaume was guarding Post 5, at the fence just below the southwest corner of the BLT headquarters. He correctly guessed the truck's mission but could not react in time either to fire at the truck or to take cover in his guard bunker.

...Sergeant of the Guard Stephen E. Russell was at the main entrance of the building at his post, a small sand-bagged structure that looked toward the back entrance of the building, when he heard the truck as the driver revved up its engine for the dash into the lobby. Russell turned to see the vehicle pass through the permanent fence encircling the compound, and head straight for his post.

He wondered what the truck was doing inside the compound. Almost as quickly, he recognized that it was a threat. He ran from his guard shack across the lobby toward the rear entrance, yelling, "Hit the deck! Hit the deck!" Glancing over his shoulder as he ran, he saw the truck smash through his guard shack. (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank, page 2.)

Driving the truck directly into the building, where he would detonate his explosives, the suicide bomber was undeterred.

The result of his efforts was catastrophic:

...[the truck and its cargo] detonated with the explosive force of more than 12,000 pounds of TNT.

This USMC photo depicts the BLT headquarters in August of 1983.  The suicide bomber entered the building at about the point where the jeep is parked.  (Look for a faint circle which is drawn around the parked vehicle).  

The day before the mass murders, a group of Marines had enjoyed a show (by a touring USO band) in front of the building.

Click on the image for a better view.

See, also:

Explosion in Beirut - Marine Barracks Attacked

Destroyed Marine Barracks - Beirut, 23 October 1983

Explosion Crater - Marine Barracks Attacked

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jul 21, 2018

Media Credits

USMC photo of the BLT building, in August of 1983, taken by SSgt Robert E. Kline.

Photo, and quoted passages, from US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank - HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS, WASHINGTON, D.C. - pp 1-2

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"Beirut Bombing - Marine Headquarters Before the Bomb" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jul 21, 2018.
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