Ft. Snelling ceremony recognizes 40th anniversary of U.S. servicemen killed in Beirut

posted in: News | 0

The 40th anniversary of the barracks bombing of in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 240 U.S. servicemen was commemorated Monday at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, specifically honoring four Minnesota Marines killed and a fifth Marine who is believed to also be a casualty of that attack.

Recent events in the Middle East were front of mind for some.

“The same ideology that killed all those Marines on this day 40 years ago are still killing today,” said organizer Patricia Peerson at the ceremony. “So it’s very timely, this special ceremony tonight.”

The four Minnesota Marines killed in the attack were Marine Cpl. John Olson of Sabin, Lance Cpls. Kevin Custard of Virginia, Thomas Lamb of Coon Rapids and John Tishmack of Minneapolis. The ceremony also recognized 1st Lt. John Downing of Minneapolis, who returned to the United States shortly before the bombing and died by suicide days after learning his fellow Marines had been killed.

Wreaths were placed on the graves of Lamb, Tishmack and Downing, who are buried at Fort Snelling.

Now some warn that the U.S. could be sliding toward a new conflict in the region.

The bombing

On Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber hit an American military barracks at Beirut International Airport, killing 241 U.S. service members, most of them Marines — still the deadliest attack on Marines since the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

A near-simultaneous attack on French forces killed 58 paratroopers.

The U.S. blames the bombings on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a claim the Iran-backed group denies. The U.S. and French forces were in Beirut as part of a multinational force deployed amid Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and as peacekeepers during the Lebanese civil war between Muslims and Christians allied with Israel. The force oversaw the withdrawal of Palestinian fighters from Beirut and stayed afterward to help a Western-backed government in Lebanon at the time. The bombing prompted a U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon.

Two truck bombs were detonated at separate barracks. Eighteen sailors and three soldiers also died in the attack along with nearly two dozen Lebanese civilians.

The United States is now deploying forces again in the region in connection to a war between Israel and its enemies.

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford has been positioned in the eastern Mediterranean along with other American warships — with a second carrier on the way — in what is widely seen as a message to Iran and Hezbollah not to open new fronts as Israel fights Hamas.

Longtime tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been hiked by the two-week-old war between Israel and Hamas, in which the Palestinian militant group’s Oct. 7 surprise attack on southern Israeli towns brought devastating Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The war risks spiraling into a wider regional conflict. The biggest worry is over the Lebanon-Israel border, where Israel and Hezbollah exchange fire on a daily basis.

In harms way

But there are other spots where the U.S. could be dragged directly into the fight. There are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and around 900 others in eastern Syria, on missions against the Islamic State group. In both countries, Iran has militias loyal to it that already have opened fire on the Americans since the Gaza war erupted.

American forces could also come under attack if Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza and appears about to destroy Hamas, as it has vowed to do.

Still, many analysts say an all-out regional war that would risk dragging the U.S. and Iran into direct confrontation remains unlikely. The 1983 barracks bombing was seen as a lesson in the danger for the U.S. in stepping in the middle of a conflict between Israel and one of its neighbors.

Sam Heller of The Century Foundation said that, as in 1983, “I don’t trust that the U.S. forces the Biden administration has sent to the region are enough to really intimidate and deter local actors.”

“Iran and its allies are exposed in their own way,” Heller said, but they have “very serious capabilities today that could be (used) against U.S. targets regionwide.”

Related Articles

News |

Hamas frees two Israeli women as US advises delaying ground war to allow talks on captives

News |

Dwindling fuel supplies for Gaza’s hospital generators put premature babies in incubators at risk

News |

Other voices: Biden shows presidential courage in Israel

News |

Biden walks a tightrope with his support for Israel as his party’s left urges restraint

News |

Palestinian death toll in West Bank surges as Israel pursues militants following Hamas rampage

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.