View Full Version : Battalion back in Beirut after 23 years

07-27-06, 07:41 AM
Posted on Thu, Jul. 27, 2006

Battalion back in Beirut after 23 years

By Estes Thompson
The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - Retired Gunnery Sgt. Rich Ray paused for a moment when he heard that Marines had returned to Beirut, Lebanon.

Twenty-three years ago, Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment were among 241 service members killed when a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives into their barracks. For the past week or so, the same unit has helped evacuate American citizens endangered by Israeli attacks on the city.

"It's emotional," said Ray, who went to Beirut after the attack. "You've got 8th Marines right back where we were 23 years ago. The word 'Beirut' is like a flashing sign. ... It brings lots of stuff back."

Ray lives in Jacksonville near the unit's Camp Lejeune base and is active with a committee that organizes a yearly memorial service for those killed in Beirut. Some veterans still can't bring themselves to come, he said.

"The last time we were in there, we cut and ran, and that doesn't sit well with Marines," Ray said. "They couldn't get us out of there fast enough. The Marines wanted to stay and kick some butt."

Retired Maj. Gen. Ray Smith commanded the battalion that went into Lebanon after the explosion. He said having Marines back in the country for the humanitarian effort was a positive event for Marines who served in Lebanon.

"We came out with flags flying and marched onto the ships," he said of the day Marines left Beirut in 1984. "We made a concerted effort to not look like we were running with our tails between our legs, but as a nation that's what we were doing."

The 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment - also known as the Beirut Battalion - left Camp Lejeune about six weeks ago as part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

They had been training in the Jordanian desert the day before they were ordered to assist in Lebanon, where 13,000 Americans have been taken out by air and ship. The last group was scheduled to leave Wednesday.

Many of the Marines there now hadn't been born at the time of the attack, but they are reminded from boot camp about the barracks attack that killed their forerunners.

"It's an eerie but good feeling to be back here," Lance Cpl. Patrick Kanalley, 23, of Buffalo, N.Y., a member of Charlie Company, said in a Marine Corps statement. "It's a terrible tragedy what happened back in '83, but we're glad to be back in here helping out and doing some good for the American people."

Lt. Col. Scott Alley commands the roughly 900-Marine battalion. Alley said in a telephone interview from the USS Iwo Jima on Wednesday that he was a freshman at the Naval Academy at the time of the Beirut bombing, but the tragedy remains significant to him and his Marines.

"When I took command in June 2005, we changed the call sign of the battalion back to the Beirut Battalion," he said.

"The biggest thing for us was the historical perspective and the honor for our fallen comrades." The Marines picked the name.

"The day we got offshore and were looking at the city of Beirut, it was an eye-opener for us that Marines are coming back 23 years later."


08-03-06, 08:52 AM
Oooohraah. Not only is 1/8 working the Root, they are on the new Iwo. How appropriate is that? They were on it then too.


08-09-06, 11:24 PM
I was with Charlie 1/8 Wpns Plt from 4/86 til I got out 11/89. I also did a Med Float on the Iwo, LF6F 1-88. There were several in my company who were in Beirut. My Plt Sgt, Sgt Foster Hill, is in the book written by Eric Hammel--The Root, The Marines in Beirut, August 1982-February 1984. It is now out of print, but pick it up if you can find a copy.

It's poetic justice, and a bit of eerie irony that 1/8, and the new Iwo was back.