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Destroyed Marine Barracks - Beirut, 23 October 1983

Destroyed Marine Barracks - Beirut, 23 October 1983 Tragedies and Triumphs Famous Historical Events Social Studies

The force of the explosion, which destroyed the BLT Headquarters in Beirut, was so powerful that people in nearby buildings - such as headquarters for the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit [MAU] - had their windows blown out:

The explosion of the truck bomb literally blew out all of the windows in the MAU headquarters. To forestall any injuries should such an attack ever occur, Colonel Geraghty and his executive officer [Lt Col Slacum] earlier had taped all of the windows in their room. The explosion also cracked the MAU headquarters structure, scattering debris all over. (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank - HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS, WASHINGTON, D.C. - pp 94.)

Colonel Geraghty investigated what had happened:

Geraghty ran outside, where the atmosphere was foggy with debris floating down ... The MAU commander next ran over to the aviation safety building behind the MAU headquarters, where all the windows had been blow out.  "And it was just then ... the fog was clearing, and I turned around and the BLT building, the headquarters, was gone.  I can't explain to you my feelings then. It was just unbelievable."  (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank, page 94.)

Lt. Colonel Slacum was in his MAU bunk when the explosion happened:

His mosquito netting was down and caught the pieces of glass blown inwards. The executive officer was dressing hurriedly when Colonel Geraghty returned and said, "Good God, the BLT is gone!  You won't believe it, the building is gone." (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank, page 96.)

As Slacum inspected the devastated area, he was stunned by the extent of the catastrophe:

... all the while I'm walking through debris that's about midcalf deep, and I just didn't even notice it.  It's just one of the surrealistic scenes where things are ... so grotesque and so odd that your mind doesn't comprehend, you're still in somewhat of a little bit of shock and I just didn't notice the stuff until I got to the steps of the building and I looked and the thing that struck me is that it was deathly silent.  This was perhaps three, four minutes after the explosion, after we had run up and down the ladder a couple of times ... And there was a gray dust over everything you could see, as far as you could see.

The concrete ... from this collapsed building, that had once been three-four stories high was now down to one story ... you could make out which was the first story and then just another 10-15 feet of rubble piled on top of that ... I first looked around and that's when you started to see the first bodies, and went to check those that I could see in front of me and then realized the magnitude of the problem. I heard no one, I saw no one.  (US Marines in Lebanon 1982-1984, by Benis M. Frank, page 96.)

It wasn't only U.S. military personnel who were killed in the building.  So were several Lebanese people (or their family members) who worked there.

See, also:

Beirut Bombing - Marine Headquarters Before the Bomb

Explosion in Beirut - Marine Barracks Attacked

Explosion Crater - Marine Barracks Attacked

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Oct 24, 2017


Media Credits

USMC photo of the destroyed BLT building, 23 October 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 94-96.

 

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