24 MAU 1983: A Marine Looks Back at the Peacekeeping Mission to Beirut, Lebanon.
Most of America joined the global war on terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001—9/11. On that dastardly day the Twin Towers came crumbling down with mushrooms of fire and dust, the Pentagon was hit, and citizens on United Airlines Flight 93 rose up against onboard terrorists. However, Marines everywhere already had grasped this alarming state of affairs with Middle Eastern terrorists some years before. On Oct. 23, 1983, 241 Marines and sailors of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit perished in a flash while on a “peacekeeping” mission in Beirut, Lebanon.
Glenn Dolphin was a Marine first lieutenant with the headquarters communications section of the 24th MAU. The MAU’s ground combat element was Battalion Landing Team, 1st Bn, Eighth Marine Regiment (1/8).
The 24th MAU embarked on May 11, 1983, for its cruel date with peacemaking on Middle Eastern shores. First Lt Dolphin and his headquarters’ Marines sailed in USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2). The 2,000 Marines of the MAU relieved a grateful 22d MAU in late May. Their mission was to work with British, French and Italian peacekeepers to calm elements of the violent Lebanese civil war, keep the Beirut International Airport open and provide a presence.
Due to random mortar and rocket attacks, most of the personnel of 1/8 were moved into the strongest building in the Marine compound, the BLT headquarters building. First Lt Joe Boccia, 1/8’s communications officer, noted, “It was built like Fort Knox.” The Marines housed in their new barracks were envied by MAU headquarters elements quartered in a less secure building nearby.
On Oct. 23 the unthinkable happened. A suicide bomber slipped by guard posts, overran wire and other obstacles, and drove his 5-ton yellow Mercedes truck into the BLT’s lobby. The detonation resulted in an enormous ball of fire. The author states, “The force of the blast arched the building upward into an inverted ‘V.’ The BLT then collapsed like a house of cards.”
The aftermath of the attack is graphically described in the book. Pandemonium followed as surviving Marines shook off the dust in the horrific realization of what had transpired. And then they quickly leaped to the ghastly task of digging out the few survivors.
Who was responsible for this attack against the peacekeeping forces? Dolphin fast-forwards to inform the reader that “on May 30, 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth found in favor of the survivors and the family members, ruling Iran responsible for the attack. The court finds that beyond question Hezbollah and its agents received massive material and technical support from the Iranian Government.”
Glenn Dolphin, currently an agent in the Aiken, S.C., FBI office, has provided an insightful view into the personal lives of many of the Marines impacted by this attack. “24 MAU 1983” is a stunning account of America’s early experience serving in the thankless role of worldwide peacekeepers. It clearly characterizes the predicament our military faces while attempting to make “politically correct” war in quarreling countries throughout the world. It’s a first-rate volume written by a gifted writer and well-versed student of American geopolitics.
On this, the 24th anniversary of the Beirut tragedy, let us dedicate ourselves to the memory of the fallen 24th MAU warriors. These men will never be forgotten by Glenn Dolphin, the surviving members of the 24th MAU, or in the glorious annals of our beloved Corps.