Twenty-nine years ago this week the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was hit by a truck bomb laden with the equivalent of six tons of TNT, “…marking the first major assault in a two-decade terrorist war of embassy bombings and plane hijackings that culminated on Sept. 11, 2001. The shocking attack killed 241 U.S. servicemen in a single strike — more than died on the deadliest day of fighting in Vietnam, [the initial]invasion of Iraq or the entire 1991 Persian Gulf War. And it gave terrorists a major victory. The bombing drove the military from its peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and provided a blueprint for attacking Americans. The retreat of U.S. forces inspired Osama bin Laden and sent an unintended message to the Arab world that enough body bags would prompt Western withdrawal, not retaliation. ‘”There’s no question it was a major cause of 9/11,’ said John Lehman, the then-secretary of the Navy, who today is a member of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. ‘We told the world that terrorism succeeds.'” (Deseret News)
It also gave rise to Hezbollah, which at the time was a small organization but is now a major force in Lebanon and throughout the region.
An excellent summary of the tragic day and its aftermath can be read at the Arlington National Cemetery website.
Sadly, most of the world has moved on and forgotten the bombing of the Marine Barracks. But not all. Those who were there, those who witnessed the unthinkable, are older now but the memories and images of that day are as vivid as if they happened yesterday. Each year the survivors congregate to remember and pay their respects to the 241 victims who never came home.
The attack marked the beginning of an era of terrorism that continues to this day, twenty-nine years later. We join the survivors in honoring those who fell, and share their hope that one day soon the scourge of terrorism will be reduced to nothing more than a bad, tragic memory.
The survivors and the 241 victims of the Beirut bombing are our heroes of the week.