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30th Anniversary of Beirut Bombing: Survivor Shares his Story

(Photo courtesy of retired 1st Sgt. Brian Kirkpatrick)

On Oct. 23, 1983, two trucks carrying explosives blew up two barracks buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers. The bombing was the deadliest attack on Marines since Iwo Jima in 1945. (Photo courtesy of retired 1st Sgt. Brian Kirkpatrick)

Oct. 23, 2013, marks the 30th anniversary of the Beirut Bombing.  241 American and 58 French service members were killed when two trucks filled with explosives crashed into the two barracks buildings. One of the 300 service members who lived in the building shares the story of the attack, his survival and how he lives with the memories.

| More: Beirut Bombing impacts Marine’s life forever |

You know what it’s like when you are half asleep and half awake? Not being one way or the other, but both at the same time? That was the way I was when I heard the yelling and the gunfire. I heard a crashing sound and felt the shake. I remember sitting up, still in my sleeping bag on the third floor of the building, looking over at my best friend. He sat up on his side, looked straight at me and opened his mouth to say something. That is when it hit.

At 6:22 a.m., a truck filled with 2,000 pounds of explosives crashed into a Marine barracks building in Beirut, Lebanon.  220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers were killed in the explosion, making the bombing the most deadly attack against Marines since the 1945 battle over Iwo Jima. U.S. service members were sent to Beirut on a peacekeeping mission along with units from France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Cpl. Brian Kirkpatrick, a combat engineer with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was sleeping on the third floor of the barracks when the attack happened.

Cpl. Brian Kirkpatrick pictured with his platoon while serving as peace-keepers in Beirut Lebanon in 1983. Of Kirkpatrick's twelve-man squad, only five Marines survived the bombing. (Photo courtesy of retired 1st Sgt. Brian Kirkpatrick)

Cpl. Brian Kirkpatrick is pictured here with his platoon while serving as peacekeepers in Beirut Lebanon in 1983. Of Kirkpatrick’s 12-man squad, only five Marines survived the bombing. (Photo courtesy of retired 1st Sgt. Brian Kirkpatrick)

It was like someone put a giant hose attachment over my head and switched it on. I was flung head over heels and hit something hard with my back. My knees were jammed up into my chest. I didn’t scream — I couldn’t. All I could manage to do was a whimper-sort of whine that got cut off as everything went black.

When I came to, I was vertical, my feet dangled and my chest was pinned against something. I thought it was like the movies where you keep calm and someone will eventually come get you. Then I heard the screams of the others and my brain screamed, “Yell or they won’t come!” So I yelled until I was hoarse, but nobody came.  By this time the rubble was filling in around the upper part of my body little by little until I couldn’t breathe. I managed to wiggle myself out only to realize, as I was slipping free, that I could still be on the third floor.  I screamed as I fell, expecting my fall to be from the third floor. Turns out, I was only three feet off the ground.

I landed in a pocket of rubble that had not collapsed. I rolled on my back, put on what was left of my glasses, and tried to figure out what happened. I was bleeding, my ribs hurt, and my left eye was not working. I crawled and dug toward the small glimmer of light I saw. As I tried to get out, I saw things that I can’t tell you about now. I don’t think I can go down that road again.

When I stumbled out of the rubble and into the light, I realized the entire building was gone. I expected to step out to what was left of the third floor, but it just wasn’t there.

Service members pick through the rubble following the Beirut bombing Oct. 23, 1983. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing that resulted in 220 Marine deaths. (U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps History Division)

Service members pick through the rubble following the Beirut bombing Oct. 23, 1983. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing that resulted in 220 Marine deaths. (U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps History Division)

Lebanese soldiers arrived at the scene to help dig service members out of the rubble. They set up a makeshift medical area where they treated Kirkpatrick and the other wounded. Two of Kirkpatrick’s Marines found him as he was getting treated. When Kirkpatrick asked who else from the platoon had made it, he found out he was the only one so far. “We all began to cry and we all held on to each other tight,” Kirkpatrick said.

I ended up on a British Royal Air Force airplane that took me to Princess Mary’s Hospital in Cyprus. They took care of us, but kept us in the dark as to what happened. While I was there, I found two others from my platoon. We sat down to make a list of who was in our platoon and noted whether or not we saw them alive. The newspapers started posting the list of casualties, so I sat down with my list and recorded who made it and who did not. The list grew every day until I realized all but four guys in my 12-man squad were gone and most of the platoon was gone, including my best friend Doug.

In the span of ten days, I went from being with my boys, to getting blown up, to driving my car down Lejeune Boulevard thinking, No way is this real. What the heck happened?

Five months after the attack, international forces withdrew from Lebanon. Kirkpatrick went on to retire as a first sergeant after serving more than 21 years in the Corps.

That was 30 years ago, and these are the memories I wake up to each morning. The nightmares that made me feel like I was back there on that day have since faded. The ones that still come up from time to time are the dreams where I am back there during the good times before the bombing. In those dreams I’m sitting with my boys and we are playing cards. I can feel the sun, smell the smells and it seems so real. They are not as painful as before because now, I look at these dreams as opportunities to see my boys again.

 

    Related Posts

  • The Impact of the Beirut Bombing

    October 22nd, 2012 // By Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson as told by Tim McCoskey

      Editor’s note: In 1982 Marines were sent to Lebanon as peacekeepers during the Lebanese Civil War. On Oct. 23, 1983, a truck filled with explosives crashed into a Marine barracks building in Beirut, Lebanon,  [Read more...]

  • bill kibler

    Your brothers picture is on the front cover of The Root!

  • bill kibler

    I was in beirut with your brother the first tour before the bombing. I’d like to catch up with him and you can reach me at or . Mike Murphy and I would like to catch up on old times. Semper Fidelis

  • Tim Houts

    I lived in that building back in 82. I left and was about to return when we were diverted to Grenada. I was at the 30th. I’m glad I went….For my own mental healing. Extreme guilt…..

  • Jeff O’Brien

    This is Jeff OBrien….anyone that would like to contact me can email me at . Look forward to hearing from you ! or call me at
    781-858-0388

  • kgandy

    Do you happen to have any pictures of George Gangur? We are trying to find some of him and only have a few from when he and my husband Cpl. Larry Kip Gandy were together. How are you doing? I know this is hard for yall and I say a prayer for y’all, my husband (who feels that if he had been there maybe they would both be here today—he would’ve been but with us expecting our first child and the problems he was TDA to another unit), and our military every night. Just in case no one tells you I’m thankful for the job that you did and the help you give and I’m deeply sorry for the loss that we all experienced that day. I would love to hear about George over there, I can still hear him telling me that my husband loved me dearly and to always stand with him for George knew we would last a lifetime—he was right and his loss to us was more than a friend he was not just my husband’s brother in arms, but also an adoptive brother to my husband. Where do you live now?

  • Jeff O’Brien

    I knew George ….we were really good friends over there.

  • Jeff O’Brien

    Hey Kirk! it’s Jeff OBrien from 4th squad……email me i would love to hear from you!!!

  • http://buzzc.proboards.com/ Julius B. Carey

    The men who died ashore relieved us. I was aboard the USS Farragut (DDG 37) in the Bay of Beirut in April, 1983 when our embassy was bombed. We patrolled there for around 3 weeks showing the colors a half mile off shore. Then we got the message that we could transit home. We got back to Norfolk on May the 20th. 5 months late all “heck” broke loose… :(

  • http://buzzc.proboards.com/ Julius B. Carey

    The men who died ashore relieved us. I was aboard the USS Farragut (DDG 37) in the Bay of Beirut in April, 1983 when our embassy was bombed. We patrolled there for around 3 weeks showing the colors a half mile off shore. Then we got the message that we could transit home. We got back to Norfolk on May the 20th. 5 months late all “heck” broke loose… :(

  • Steve Brent

    Just before I got promoted to Corporal, I was stationed at HQMC as a clerk for DC/S Manpower LtGen Maloney. Our office watched the situation as it unfolded on TV news. Among other duties I had that day, I was told to go to Medals and Decorations and pick up a box of purple hearts. Wow, did that box get heavy on the way back! I recogized three or four names in the casualty reports, but wasn’t sure if they were people I remember being in contact with. There were just so many names. I think most of us were in some state of shock. I mean, there is supposed to be only one medal per box, right? It still haunts me. I have never felt a greater sense of sudden and seemingly endless weight of sadness as I had that day. I kept thinking, “it could have been me but for the grace of God…” -S. Brent of Columbus, OH.

  • kgandy

    I’m thankful your brother was okay, our friend and someone who would have been considered a twin to him took four days for them to find out he was dead. We prayed so hard they would find him and he’d be okay, it’s what he said about us that has kept us together for so long. My heart broke for his parents and us that day they called to tell us he was gone. I never set glued to the T.V. like I did that day and for days later. I am thankful that the Memorial was erected for those who lost their lives, so that their brothers in arms could have a place to gather and remember.

  • kgandy

    If you ever want to email please feel free too! I will pass the email onto my husband Gandy
    email:
    Did you make it too the 30th Memorial? As a teacher it was surprising to find out that this is not mentioned in the history books, and if it is it’s only a few lines.
    Take care

  • kgandy

    I have a facebook page Kathleen Wilcox-Gandy. I am enclosing my emails and would love to have you email me, so that I could stay in touch with y’all:
    work:
    Home:
    Take care

  • Roueida Nial Abouzaki

    Your page brought tears to my eyes, memory of my childhood when the Marined were in Beirut in the 80′s! It’s been 30 years since the bombing, but I still have a nightmare every once in a while! I was in my young teens sleeping soundly in my room when this happened! I was living just few blocks away from the US Embassy that day! Waking up to shatters glass all over my body, ringing in my ears from the sound of that car bomb, never will forget that chaotic day! I am so sorry for your lost, and know not all Lebanese bad people! May all R.I.P who lost their life on that bad day including few of my close friends!

  • Adam

    The French contingent lost 58 paratroopers that day. Their area was also bombed minutes after the Marine BLT HQ. We will never forget our fellow peacekeepers from France.

    Que Dieu bénisse nos frères
    Cpl. Adam Raphael, USMC
    24th MAU, 2MarDiv

  • Guest

    The French congingent lost 58 KIA minutes after the BLT building was bombed. We remember our French brothers as well. Cpl. “A” I/3/8 2 MarDiv., 24th MAU. Semper Fidelis.

  • kgandy

    Every year as this approaches I notice that my husband and I get moody, sad, and wanting those who were not even born or were too young to remember to know about this and keep the memory alive. I found myself crying a lot yesterday and making it my goal to keep this memory alive! I have learned to let my husband have his time and I let him know that I am there!!

  • kgandy

    Did anyone know George Gangur? I can remember waiting with my husband for news of those we knew and on the fourth day he came home to let me know that he had been killed. It truly sadden’s me that this is not mentioned in the history books and if it is it’s only two-three lines, and when the history channel does specials–No mention. It has become my desire to get the story into the history books and never let this be forgotten. Please write to your Representatives, Senators, Congress Person, and asked them to change the history books to get this story in there so our future children will know about that day!

    I wrote to 4, 5, 8, and 11 our local stations here and only one interviewed my husband about that day, and I wanted to share it with everyone:

    I will not stop till everyone knows and remember. This is the least I can do to keep the memory alive.

  • kgandy

    Below is the email I sent to Channel’s 4, 5, 8, and 11. In order to get the word out that this is something everyone is forgetting about and it is part of history and should be remember:

    October 23, 1983 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Terrorist Bombing of the Marine Corp Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Where 220 Marines were killed, 18 Navy, and 3 Army. The largest single day loss of life for the Marines since WW2 in the Battle for Iwo Jima. Killed in Beirut from North Texas were Marcus Coleman–Dallas, Tx, Michael S. Fulton–Fort Worth, Tx, 2 from Austin, 1 from Conroe, TX. My husband had been attached to the 24th MAU, but due to us expecting our first child and complications that were arising he had been temporarily reassigned to another duty station till after the baby. On that day not only did North Texas loose young men, but we loss very dear friends from all over the U. S.
    My husband Larry Kip Gandy will be leaving for Camp Lejeune, N.C. tonight in order to attend the 30th Anniversary Memorial on October 23. To all those who have loss a loved one, a friend, or served over in Beirut just know that we will never forget that day.

    Sad but this is something that is never mentioned or remember. For those of us that were state side with loved ones either in or over there we sit glued to the television watching and praying for them and those that loss their lives.

    Just wanted to put this out there for y’all to remember!

  • kgandy

    I am so glad that they got to see each other. I enjoyed when we got married going there and being a part of the crew. Loved cooking the large meals and hanging out. But I will never forget that day!

  • Waldrum

    I will never forget this horrific day. My brother Daniel Waldrum was there and celebrated his 18th birthday in Beirut. He was moved from the barracks the day before the attack. I was very young but I remember the panic, pain, and my mother watching the news and seeing the names of those fallen marines and not knowing if or when my brothers name would appear. It took a little time but eventually we found out that he survived. Years later after I joined the military my brother told me of some of the things he witnessed that day and as the First Sergeant said words just can’t describe that day and those things still haunt my brother. I appreciate you sharing your story and bringing memory to those that were lost that day and hopefully bring solace to the survivors and families of all. My son Bronson Waldrum just arrived for basic training at Parris Island earlier this week. Semper Fi !

  • David Grauf

    I lived in that building while with 2/6, in 1983, I had put in a request to stay behind but it never got put in, knew a few form the battalion that relived us, but they were all my brothers, my heart broke that day, I stood guard as they dug through the rubble of the embassy looking for the living, and then watched as they pulled out the dead, kgandy I do too have nightmares of that tour, and they don’t say much about it because it was their fault that they truck got in, some higher ups informed us to remove the 55 gallons of tar form the parking lot in front of the building we looked as if we were in a defensive position,,,, well DUH SSGT D.L. GRAUF 1975-1985

  • Timothy Pachinko Chinko Halvor

    I remember going to Boot Camp July of 1994 and meeting our Series Gunner Sergeant, GYSGT Kirkpatrick. He had us read the names on the plaque outside our barracks door of those that were killed during this terrible event and those that survived. He gave a lot of inspiration and motivation to all of us there. Thank you so much, First Sergeant!

    Semper Fidelis
    Sgt Halvorsen

  • Timothy Pachinko Chinko Halvor

    Then Cpl Kirkpatrick soon became Gunny Kirkpatrick my series Gunnery Sergeant when I was in Boot Camp. Will never forget him telling is to read the names of those who died and the few who survived that bombing. Thank you for your service and giving me more inspiration to become a Marine, Gunny!

    Semper Fidelis
    Sgt Timothy Halvorsen

  • salordan

    If Nukes had flown on Iran that day. I’d bet my life’s pay, 911,the USS Cole, or any of the Embassy attacks would have never happened.

  • JT Jackson

    sunday
    morning paper, a poem fr th lost

    camouflaged children

    cooks n clerks

    swaddled in kevlar n sand bags

    t fend off th strange customs ƒ a place

    they might not have wanted t be

    broken under th sudden concrete fist

    lazerphotos frm lebanon –

    colorless portraits on th page

    sooty at my fingertips

    residue from the smoke ƒ
    foreign fires –

    the jagged crush ƒ building rubble

    (so much bloody rubble)

    n blurry eyes captured

    n placed on page one

    i cannot quote frm first hand

    n i gave my nikon away

    but

    as
    i silently wait fr th names

    tht i used t call friends

    t arrive n shrouds ƒ newsprint

    i struggle

    frm under th comfortable debris ƒ
    distance

    n six months a stateside civilian

    trying t imagine th rage n th pain.

    wpns, A Co, & HqSvCo 1/1 ’79-’83
    sunday
    morning paper / oct 1983 / beirut, october 23,1983, truck bombs were driven almost
    simultaneously into the headquarters of both the U.S. and French contingents of
    the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, killing {253+] marines, sailors and
    paratroopers in what many see as the first major strike of the terrorist war on
    America

  • Shauna Wilmot Henson

    kgandy, my husband is Lonny Henson, they were meeting up at Jacksonville today. This is the first time he has met up with several fellow brothers from the Marines. I’m glad a lot of them could get together this year! They all need each other to accept and live on.

  • Sea Rock

    25 years later, bombing in Beirut still resonates By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
    Updated 10/18/2008 9:44 AM As posted at:

    … “Two years after the bombing, a U.S. grand jury secretly indicted Imad Mughniyah, a Lebanese Muslim, in the bombing. He went on to become one of the world’s most prolific terrorists; among his alleged operations was the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers compound in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemembers.” …

    … “Last February, he was killed in Damascus — by a car bomb.” …

    Imad Fayez Mughniyeh (7 December 1962 – 12 February 2008), also transliterated Mughniyya, Mughniyah, Mogniyah (Arabic: عماد فايز مغنية‎), alias al-Hajj Radwan (الحاج رضوان), was a senior member of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Information about Mughniyeh is limited, but he is generally understood to have been a principal leader and operative for a number of years within Hezbollah’s military, intelligence, and security apparatuses. He may also have been among the founders of Hezbollah in the 1980s. In Lebanon and the greater Middle East he is associated with the successful defense of southern Lebanon against the 2006 Israeli incursion.

    U.S. and Israeli officials have accused Mughniyeh of association with many bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations, beginning with the Beirut barracks bombing and US embassy bombings, both of which took place in 1983 and killed over 350, as well as the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s. He was indicted in Argentina for his alleged role in the 1992 Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires. The highest-profile attacks for which it is claimed he is responsible took place in the early 1980s, shortly after the founding of Hezbollah, when Mughniyah was in his early twenties. U.S. officials have accused him of killing moreUnited States citizens than any other militant prior to the 2001 US attacks, and the bombings and kidnappings he is alleged to have organized are credited with all but eliminating the US military presence in Lebanon in the 1980s.

    Mughniyeh was known by his nome du guerre al-Hajj Radwan. Mughniyeh was included in the European Union’s list of wanted terrorists. and had a US$5 million bounty on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list.

    Mughniyeh was killed on 12 February 2008 by a car bomb that detonated as he passed by on foot. around 11:00 pm local time in theKafr Sousa neighborhood of Damascus, Syria.

    … you can run and you can hide …

    … and you’re only going to die; scared and tired …

  • Carlo E Manolita Catalogna

    Thirtieth Commemoration

    “When everything is all over, we will set off on a nice journey from New York to Los Angeles; a Coast to Coast trip” and throwing back “each with his own
    vehicle and his partner”. “Yeah! And what car would your ass be sitting in?” I ask him, while I was imagining beautiful women with hair flying in the air while we were
    traveling fast on powerful convertible cars to common destinations. “Well”, he says smilingly, “I thought I was driving an AH-64 Apache” and he burst into laughter loudly.

    I am a petty officer in the Italian Navy and he is a U.S Marine Lance Corporal. He came on board the “Ardito”, the destroyer I was embarked on, with a group of fellow soldiers accompanying their officers. That day they had been assigned to me on board. As I speak English, I have met other boys, when I was often called for links with the U.S. Forces in Beirut during the International Peace Mission in Lebanon.

    We were very fond of that attack helicopter, which was very often a cause of excitement of our conversations. The aggressive aerodynamics, the tandem positioning of the pilot and co-pilot, its blast power, but above all, for a group of eighteen year olds of the time, the complexity of what its pilots would call “Green Dragon” in the future. Computers were still in their early days, the commercial use of digitals were mainly entertainment systems and communications were analog.

    On Sunday morning, October 23rd, 1983, a rumor spreads in the morning that there had been a series of suicide bombings against the American and French headquarters. From the flight deck you can see the smoke of the explosions and my thoughts float in fantasy that some of the boys I knew had been saved. A whole day passes to discover the devastation of those attacks: 299 lives passed away on the spot.

    That explosion, the result of a strategic growing cruelty, tears apart the lives of my friends forever and is crucial in my life. It had to be a peace mission whereas we were involved in a war. A week later I received a letter sent by a U.S. Marine in Beirut, written some days after we met and posted a day before the attack, thanking me for the warm welcome on board and reviving his wish for a Coast to Coast trip together. After the verification of facts, I received the confirmation that the letter had been written by a dead man.

    Thirty years later I am aware that those dramatic events changed my life forever and the memory of those boys torn apart in the explosion, never abandoned me. My decisions taken thereafter will always be linked to that experience. In my own
    way I’ve turned those souls into angels by putting my prayers into their hands and burning a lot of candles and incense in their memory.

    Today, 23rd October 2013, the flame of a votive candle sheds its light on the model of an Apache, which flies ideally between the Lighthouse and the Cliff on a shelf in my home, a powerful “Memento Mori” of my eternal friends.

  • G strawn

    I to would have been there if it wasn’t for my EAS date. I watched my buddies leave from the Parade Deck wishing them there safety as I drove off heading back to Arkansas. I remember this with tears as I write. My son now carries the tradition where I left off and he to carries the sadness of his buddies that he has lost. Semper Fi

  • Samuel

    On both sides of the Atlantic, we can’t forget that day.

    Samuel
    Le Mans, France

  • kgandy

    We loss some very dear friends that day. My husband would have been there that day, but due to problems with the pregnancy he was TDA to another unit, today October 23, 2013 marks the first time he will be there with his buddies. My heart still hurts because I can remember that evening and watching as the names kept coming and praying for all there, and those that were state side. Just wish that more would be said about this and that there was more in the history books..

  • John Harris

    Prayers for peace, Top. Semper Fi, Brother !

  • Jon Clark

    Technically we didn’t withdraw until the summer of 1984 when BLT 3/8 was the last to pull out. But then it was an election year and the president told the media he had pulled the Marines out of there. 24MAU, BLT 3/8…

  • Kenneth Carlson

    Thanks for your story First Sargent.My former room mate at Marine Barracks Norfolk Virginia had some of his bootcamp friends die that day and I swore I’d never forget.

    Semper Fidelis First Sargent.