The bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983, which resulted in the deaths of 241 American service men due to a suicide bomber, was commemorated 40 years ago today at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The Embassy community, along with U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea and Deputy Chief of Mission Amanda Pilz, recognized and paid respects to those who perished in this tragedy.
A wreath bearing the words “They Came in Peace” was put at the U.S. Embassy memorial by Ambassador Shea and French Ambassador Hervé Magro. The names of each casualty were read, and the U.S. Embassy’s Marine Security Guard detachment recalled and honored their sacrifice.
In her remarks, Ambassador Shea emphasized that the United States’ commitment to the people of Lebanon is“so much stronger than any cowardly act of violence or terrorism.” She continued, “The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is semper fidelis, always faithful. Today, 40 years after the Marine Corps Barracks bombing, we are forever faithful to the memory of those 241 servicemen and all those – Americans, Lebanese, and others – who have given their lives in support of peace.”
Following are Ambassador Shea’s complete remarks: “Good morning. Thank you, all of you, for joining us here today. Thank you, Your Excellency Hervé Magro, defense attaché, and other colleagues from our French embassy counterparts. Thank you, all of you, for being here with us amid difficult circumstances to pay our respects to those lost and injured 40 years ago today.
Forty years ago, the Lebanese people were midway through a horrific civil war that killed tens of thousands and drove almost a million Lebanese to flee their homes. At the request of the Lebanese government, the United States – alongside our French, Italian, and UK allies – formed a new multinational force to help the Lebanese government regain full sovereignty over Beirut and the entire country. Or, as President Ronald Reagan said at the time, to ensure that “the Lebanese people are allowed to chart their own future.” That is an aspiration we still hold.
And so in 1982, roughly 800 U.S. Marines landed in Beirut. Along with their fellow French, UK, and Italian soldiers, they came in peace to help ensure the safety of the Lebanese people and bring an end to the tragic violence.
These Marines were young men with bright futures ahead of them, and with a deep commitment to serving their country and the values we hold dear as Americans and Lebanese. Colleagues, I would invite you to view the exhibit in our consular waiting room, which includes some photographs depicting the daily lives of these Marines when they were here in Beirut. Thesephotos capture some of their simple pleasures, like a pick-up soccer match or getting a haircut or playing with Lebanese children in the area around the Marine Corps Barracks.