Oct 23, 1983 Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing

“…to provide a presence in Beirut, that would in turn help establish the stability necessary for the Lebanese government to regain control of their capital.”

25 years later, bombing in Beirut still resonates

By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
A quarter-century later, the sergeant of the guard that morning says he can still see the face of the man driving the truck.

Sgt. Stephen Russell was sitting in his guard booth outside a barracks in Beirut.
He was one of about 1,600 Marines who’d been sent to Lebanon as neutral peacekeepers but found little peace to keep. He says he heard something snap behind him and a diesel engine revving.

He turned.

What he saw, at 6:22 a.m. that bright Sunday in the fourth decade of the Cold War, was the future, coming straight at him, in the form of a 5-ton truck. It was Oct. 23, 1983, a day Ronald Reagan called the saddest of his presidency, maybe his life.

The truck would shatter the Marines’ building with a bomb more powerful than 12,000 pounds of TNT — the biggest non-nuclear explosion since World War II, the FBI concluded.

It would kill 241 servicemembers, including 220 Marines — the Corps’ bloodiest day since Iwo Jima. It would drive the U.S. out of Lebanon and lead some, including al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, to conclude that when America gets its nose bloodied, it pulls back.

For Americans, Beirut was a seminal moment on a timeline that led to the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. It was a first shot in a clash with a militant, fundamentalist Islam — exemplified by groups such as Hezbollah and nations such as Iran — that would replace Soviet communism as the USA’s chief adversary.


May those who planned and executed this attack suffer eternally. [Wikipedia]

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  • Anonymous

    >semper fi and god bless doc cormican

    • Mike Larson

      You mean the same Doc Cormican that spent 3 days trapped underneath the rubble according to the front page of the brunswick news? “Date November 10, 2003
      Section(s) Frontpage


      The Brunswick News

      James Cormican Jr. of Brunswick feels a camaraderie with soldiers who remain in Iraq.

      With sneak attacks, car bombings and suicide bombers claiming lives, Cormican can more than relate.

      In 1983, the former U.S. Navy corpsman spent three days trapped under the rubble of a bombed Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon. Cormican survived, but more than 200 others didn’t.

      “I definitely feel a connection to them,” he said. “I feel deep in my heart that the same group that attacked us 20 years ago is somehow involved. A lot of people feel the same way. I watch what’s going on over there and I get angry. Why can’t we catch [them]?”

      In the era of the war on terror, Cormican said Veterans Day should hold even more meaning to all Americans.

      “You don’t have to be a soldier to die in combat anymore,” he said. “You don’t have to be a soldier to be a hero. I believe the definition of who is a veteran has definitely broadened.”

      Cormican became a combat veteran shortly before breakfast on Oct. 20, 1983.

      “I remember calling about breakfast,” the now 41-year-old said. “Then all I remember is being pulled from the rubble and saying, ‘I need a drink.'”

      As a Navy corpsman, Cormican said there was a bond between him and the Marines under his care. It’s a bond that’s shared by most who serve in the military, he said.

      “I remember all of those guys,” he said. “We were all so close. I was their medic. I took care of them and they took care of me. It was a brotherhood.”

      As Veterans Day draws near and Cormican visits a cemetery, as he does every year, he will remember the people lost 20 years ago as well as those who are still in danger of dying.

      He said he has no regrets, though he still questions why he and the men he called brothers were in Beirut in the first place.

      “I always ask that,” he said. “It’s like Vietnam. Yeah, it was a combat situation, but most of the time our weapons were empty. We were told not to fire unless we were fired on and could see the gunfire. By that time, it’s too late.”

      A year later, Cormican was out of the military, the injuries he sustained in the bombing preventing him from continuing his career. His knee never recovered from the explosion and his hearing was badly damaged.

      The worst wound, though, wouldn’t manifest itself for another 18 years.

      “I had the flashbacks, the nightmares and I never knew why. Two years ago I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

      Life has gotten better for Cormican. He has a wife who understands him, and three children.

      He made it out of a bad situation and finally, things are looking up. In October, he commemorated the 20th anniversary of the bombing in Beirut by presenting the U.S. Marine recruiter in Brunswick with a flag.

      “I couldn’t make it to the memorial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina,” he said. “This was my way of finally saying good-bye to my friends.”

      • Mark Levengard

        I was good friends with James once he got back to Norfolk. Unfortunately, he has in the last few years done some truly heinous things, which have destroyed our friendship. I won’t go into any details, but I still love him like a brother, but can’t have anything to do with him.

  • Anonymous

    >Thinking of good friend S.Sgt Guy Fortier USMC today. He was survivor who left part of himself behind in the dust with his brothers, who now guard the Streets of Heaven

    Semper Fidelis.