I remember August 25, 1982, well. I was one of about 50 reporters standing on a south Beirut beach as the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment came ashore. I still remember Colonel James Meade in the lead amphibious craft. He was a dashing figure; movie star handsome. Meade, a marine aviator, wore a blue pilot’s scarf as he came ashore. It was flapping in the brisk Lebanese coastal wind.
Meade led the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU). Lt. Colonel Robert Johnston commanded 2/8 Battalion Landing Team (BLT), the Marines who would actually serve as a peace keeping force based out of Beirut International Airport. The Lebanese, caught in a war between Israel and the PLO, greeted the Marines as heroes.
October 23, 1983, 241 of the heroes became victims. Their deaths at the hands of a terrorist truck bomber was the first shot fired by Muslim extremists against the United States and Western powers in general. The attack changed my life. It set me on a course studying and reporting on the cause and effect of terrorism – a subject that I follow to this day.
By the time of the Beirut bombing, I had covered the Salvadoran civil war for two years and was becoming an experienced Beirut hand having been sent to Lebanon in the midst of the Israeli invasion. 2/8 Marines was the first American unit I had ever covered, and it will be the last.
After 30 years of reporting about world conflict, I am retiring to teach at the University of Oklahoma this Fall. I asked to be with 2/8 on my final assignment and General Larry Nicholson granted my request. Lt. Colonel Christian Cabaniss has received me with great warmth and I look forward to continuing my coverage of 2/8 until it is time for me to leave – for good.
Please keep checking the video section of our site for new videos from our embed with 2/8 Marines and watch ABC news for our reports.
I thank all of you for following me and Carlos.