Greetings All… (Please, read the article I have included at the end of this email.)
My time in Beirut Lebanon came after the October 23, 1983 bombing of the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (1/8) Barracks. When 2/8 relieved them, they became the last unit deployed as part of the "MultiNational Peacekeeping Force". When my unit, 3/8, relieved 2/8, we became the "External Security Force" for the U.S./U.K. Embassy. The Men that died are my Brothers – Marines, Sailors and Soldiers alike. For the U.S. Postmaster General and the 15-member Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee to turn down the request the request for Beruit Commemorative Stamps is one thing. Their reasoning ten years ago was that the group wanted to honor positive events and that Beirut lacked significance in American history. Now as we near the 20th Anniversary of this tragic event, we have seen stamps for Desert Storm released while troops were still deployed, and just about a year for the September 11th stamps to come out. Not exactly real positive events, and certainly the Beruit Bombing was indeed of grand historical significance…a wake-up call on terrorism for the United States. Perhaps an unheeded wake-up call.
Just a suggestion, but maybe we should stop hitting the historical snooze button and get up out of our collective complacency. Let's commemorate my Beruit Brothers, get them the Stamps and start learning from the hard lessons we've experienced. If we forget, then they have died in vain…!
Back Row (Standing): Paul Peirce, Neal Pascoe, Dale Seabolt, Robert Capelli, Brian Coughlin, Chris Cona, Steve Skaggs, Paul Knipe, Eddie VanTassel, Tim Keena
. Front Row (Kneeling): Mike Barbella, Mel Hart, Eric Tischler (Eric is our Reunion Coordinator)
Beirut Memorial adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Penns Landing, Philadelphia, PA. Marines in Beirut Lebanon – A Forgotten Campaign?
Lance Corporal Paul A. Peirce, USMC Veteran: February 1983-October 1987 My time in Beirut Lebanon came after the infamous October 23, 1983 bombing of the First Battalion, 8th Marines (1/8) Battalion Landing Team Headquarters. When 2/8 relieved them, they became the last unit deployed as part of the "MultiNational Peacekeeping Force". Subsequently, when my unit, 3/8, relieved 2/8, we became the "External Security Force" for the U.S./U.K. Embassy. The Men that died are my Brothers – Marines, Sailors and Soldiers alike. There has now been at least a decade of effort by the survivors of Beirut and their families to get a Commemorative Stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service, without success. For the U.S. Postmaster General and the 15-member Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee to turn down the request for Beirut Commemorative Stamps is one thing. Their reasoning, however, was that the group wanted to honor positive events and that Beirut lacked significance in American history. Well, here's a bit of a history lesson…
In the summer of 1982, at the request of the Lebanese government, the United States agreed to establish a U.S. military presence in that country to serve as a peacekeeping force in the conflict between warring Moslem and Christian factions. The official mission statement, according to a Defense Department report was "…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." So, on March 24, 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, received orders to Beirut, Lebanon in support of that commitment.
Initially, the U.S. Forces, along with those of France and Italy, did in fact provide a measure of stability by their very presence; but, as diplomatic efforts failed to establish a basis for a lasting settlement, the Moslem factions came to perceive the Marines as enemies. Artillery, mortar, and small arms fires started being directed at the Marine Corps positions. Eventually, Marines were able to take appropriate, measured responses against certain targets. At the time of the bombing in 1983, Secretary of State Colin Powell's rank was Major General, and he served as the senior military assistant to then Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger. General Colin Powell, stated in his book, My American Journey, "What I saw from my perch in the Pentagon was America sticking its hand into a thousand year-old hornet's nest with the expectation that our mere presence might pacify the hornets."
Tragically, at around 0622 hours (6:22 AM local time) on October 23, 1983, the First Battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters building was destroyed by a terrorist-driven truck, laden with 12,000 pounds of compressed gas-enhanced explosives. This truck, like many others, had become a familiar sight at the airport and so did not raise any alarm on this morning. The resulting explosion and the collapse of the building killed 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers.
Since this fateful day, Americans have seen terrorism hit us at home, with the most recent attacks in our memory being first the car bombing in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York back in 1993; then its complete destruction on September 11, 2001 when commercial airliners were used as bombs as effectively as that yellow Mercedes truck at the BLT Headquarters in Beirut. National Guardsmen were soon deployed in our International Airports in order to augment security and establish a "presence". These troops, just as the U.S. Marines in Lebanon, were armed with rifles and live ammunition. Like us, however, the National Guardsmen were not allowed to have their weapons loaded. Though in the shadow of 9/11/01, someone, it appears, had forgotten the bitter lesson learned on 10/23/83. I thank the good Lord that nothing happened to the National Guard while on their mission here at home.
Now as we near the 20th Anniversary of the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, we have seen stamps for Desert Storm released while troops were still deployed, and then after about a year the September 11th stamps were issued. Not exactly real positive events, and certainly the Beirut Bombing was indeed of grand historical significance. Even as a resident of Massachusetts, I met Congressman Patrick Kennedy at a recent event in Woonsocket, Rhode Island (AutumnFest in Woonsocket). I was wearing my red USMC ball cap with embroidered emblem when Congressman Kennedy approached me. In a rare occurrence for me, the Congressman shook my hand and thanked me for my service to our country. Upon learning where I served, he called the events in Beirut, "…a wake-up call on terrorism for the United States." "Perhaps, Mr. Kennedy," I replied, "an unheeded wake-up call."
Maybe it's just my opinion, though I see it as more of a suggestion, we should stop hitting the historical snooze button and get up out of our bed collective complacency. Let's also commemorate my Beirut Brothers, get them the U.S. Postal Service Commemorative Stamps and start learning from the hard lessons we've experienced. If we forget, then they have died in vain…!
For more information about the proposed Commemorative Stamp please visit http://www.beirut-memorial.org/memory/stamp.html .
For a List of those who died in the Beirut Bombing, including those that died as a result of their injuries in the blast, please visit Beirut Memorial
LCpl Paul Peirce
February 1, 1983 – October 22, 1987