Today, U.S. Embassy Beirut marked the 40th anniversary of the October 23, 1983, bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, in which a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. servicemembers. U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea, Deputy Chief of Mission Amanda Pilz, and the Embassy community honored and paid tribute to those who lost their lives in this attack.
Ambassador Shea and French Ambassador Hervé Magro laid a wreath at the U.S. Embassy memorial adorned with the phrase, “They Came in Peace.” Members of the U.S. Embassy’s Marine Security Guard detachment read the names of each victim, remembered their service, 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:
Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy C. Shea 40th Anniversary of the Bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks October 23, 2023, 9:30 AM
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. These photos 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.
October 23, 1983, should have been one of those days. It was a Sunday, so the compound would have been quiet.
At 6:22 a.m., just a few moments before the morning reveille was scheduled to sound, their bright futures were cut short in a matter of seconds. A suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the barracks and detonated it, in an attack conducted with Iran’s support. This building was reduced to rubble. 241 U.S. servicemen were killed that day. One more would die in the coming days due to injuries he sustained during the attack.
In a matter of seconds, a cowardly act of terrorism robbed these American servicemen of their bright futures. Families were left forever grieving an unimaginable loss, and an entire nation was left in shock.
A few minutes later, a second suicide bomber struck the French barracks, the Drakkar, and killed 58 French paratroopers. Again, I would like to recognize his Excellency Ambassador Hervé Magro, who is with us here today, and salute the memory of those French paratroopers, whose futures were taken away from them far too soon. Que leurs âmes reposent en paix.
We are here, today, 40 years later, to honor the memories of those who came in peace. We remember, and we honor them.
We are also here to say unequivocally that our commitment to the Lebanese people is so much stronger than any cowardly act of violence or terrorism.
Today, we reject, and the Lebanese people reject, the threats of some to drag Lebanon into a new war. We continue to renounce any attempts to shape the region’s future through intimidation, violence, and terrorism – and here I am talking about not just Iran and Hizballah, but also Hamas and others, who falsely paint themselves as a noble “resistance,” and who most certainly do not represent the aspirations – or the values – of the Palestinian people, while they try to rob Lebanon and its people of their bright future.
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.
We are also forever faithful to our values and principles, the very same ones that brought the U.S. Marines here in the 1980s, and the ones that I know we as Americans and Lebanese share today. Those of us who are serving here today continue to work every day to promote those values and to be a positive force for Lebanon’s peace, stability, and national unity – and today in particular, we do so in memory of those who paid the ultimate price.