By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 – The attack on the Marine
barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983 became a harbinger of what is
known today as the war on terror, said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F.
Amos, during a ceremony yesterday in Jacksonville, N.C., to mark the 30th
anniversary of the attacks.
The terrorist truck bomb took the lives of 241 service
“The world we lived in and the future we knew of a secure
environment changed forever that morning of Oct. 23,” Amos said. “The nation
was not expecting this. It was a new kind of warfare. The threat of radical
extremists being able to target military and civilian personnel with weapons of
mass destruction for political, religious and personal gains was a new way to
attack the West. It was a cowardly act on freedom.”
The early 1980s was a tumultuous time of conflicting powers,
Amos told the audience of Marines, as well as families and friends of those
killed in the attack. “[That era] indeed became the harbinger of more
challenging times yet to come,” the general said. “Tensions were high across
the world, the Cold War raged on, and radicalism surfaced as a new threat to
stability in the Middle East.”
And, “when conflict ripped at the peaceful coexistence of
Lebanon, the United States, France, Italy and Great Britain answered the call
to assist,” Amos said of the multinational peace-keeping force that went into
Amos described how Marines attempted to serve as peace
keepers at a time when the country was deeply immersed in a civil war.
“They stood watch and patrolled chaotic streets to provide a
blanket of safety and security and comfort for the citizens of Lebanon. They
stood for freedom,” he said, adding that the Marines knew their protection of
the citizens came with a risk.
“On Oct. 23, 1983, terror struck. At 6:22 a.m., extremists
drove an explosives-laden truck into the Marine barracks the likes of which had
never been witnessed before. The massive explosion shook the ground of the
entire Beirut International Airport along with the souls of all the Marines
throughout the world,” Amos said.
“Two-hundred and forty-one Marines and American soldiers and
sailors [who] volunteered to make a difference” died in the attack, he added.
“They volunteered to serve their country … to put the lives
and freedoms of others before their own … 241 of our finest, Amos said. “We
honor each of them today.”
Beginning with the attacks in Beirut, extremists have
attempted to destroy what makes the United States great by attacking America at
home and abroad, Amos pointed out.
He recounted the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia
in which a truck detonated alongside a building that housed U.S. Air Force
personnel, killing 19 and wounding 498. He also recalled the 1998 attacks on
U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 220 people were killed and more
than 4,000 were wounded. Amos also spoke of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole,
berthed in Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors and
“On 9/11,” Amos said, “terrorists attacked America, in New
York, the fields of Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000.
We remember each of these well. We will never forgive, nor will we ever
In September 2012, he added, gunmen attacked the U.S.
consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four people, including U.S. Ambassador J.
“Not only are these world-changing events, but they are very
personal to all of us here today,” Amos said.
U.S. troops responded in countries such as Yemen, Somalia,
Mali, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.
“Today, our Marines remain forward-deployed,” Amos said.
“Marine expeditionary units are stationed around the globe -- the 26th, the
13th and the 31st Marines continue to train security forces and deny terrorists
safe havens throughout all of Afghanistan.”
When Marines respond to crises, they remain strong, and
ready to respond and answer the nation’s call, Amos said. Since the fateful day
of the Beirut attacks, the Marines have stayed consistent in character and
courage, and those traits have “not wavered and never will,” he said.
“Across the globe, extremists have attempted to plot against
our freedom and our democracy. They have tested our resolve as a nation. Those
men who died 30 years ago would be proud to know that we have never relented,”
Amos told the audience members, who responded with cries of “Oorah!”
“We have never backed down, and we never will,” he said.