Memorial Day speaker recalls terrorism’s 1st big attack

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 4:36pm
By: John Munford

The crowd at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Peachtree City was vividly taken back to the moments before and after a deadly terrorist attack that killed 241 servicemen in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 23, 1983.

Telling that story was the city’s own Randy Gaddo, today head of the city’s leisure services division, but then a combat correspondent for the Marine Corps. The United States was there on a peacekeeping mission as part of a multi-national coalition, and troops were under orders to carry unloaded weapons, Gaddo told the crowd.

So when a truck driven by a terrorist sped its way onto the base, a guard had to quickly load his M-16, and though he fired a couple of shots he was unable to stop the truck from delivering its payload: 12,000-plus pounds of explosives that leveled the four-story concrete barracks.

Gaddo said that incident is now regarded as the first volley in the war on terror, and the resulting pullout of the peacekeeping forces further fortified terrorists. Had forces not been withdrawn, perhaps the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 could have been avoided, he argued.

In the same manner, pulling out of the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan would likely yield the same results, empowering the terrorists, Gaddo said.

“If we pull out, terrorists will have another training ground,” Gaddo said.

In an effort to bring home the pre-blast details, Gaddo shared how peaceful that Sunday morning was minutes before the blast. The birds were chirping loudly enough to have been “a symphony,” he recalled.

The smell of omelets, a Sunday treat in the mess hall, were in the air.

But ultimately it was a cup of coffee that likely saved Gaddo’s life, delaying his appearance near the barracks where he was due to develop eight rolls of film.

Gaddo recalled hearing the two shots from the guard’s rifle and then feeling a roar and hearing a “thunderous thud.”

The blast “threw me back several feet in the air as if I was a rag doll,” Gaddo said.

Gaddo rose to his feet, went outside and saw the smoke in the air and a mushroom cloud, right where the barracks used to be.

He ran to inform a commander that the “barracks were gone,” which he equated to the Sept. 11 attacks when people said the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were gone. The words were so astounding as to stun the senses and create confusion, he said.

It was ultimately determined that the terrorist group Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing, and a similar attack with a truck laden with explosives was detonated beneath the World Trade Center in 1995, Gaddo noted. Gaddo also said that Hezbollah was funded in part by the Iranian government both then and currently.

Gaddo said terrorists have proven to be very versatile and able to strike anywhere at any time, and he argued they need to be brought under control, and if U.S. troops withdraw from the current war on terror, the country would likely regret it years down the road.

Gaddo’s other lasting message was actually the motto of his Beirut veterans’ group: “Our first duty is to remember.”

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DragNet's picture
Submitted by DragNet on Thu, 05/29/2008 - 9:27pm.

Mmmmm....why was this considered a terrorist attack? Our troops were in a war zone and I'd guess that made them a legitimate target. The fact that the enemy used non-conventional warfare methods just talks of the unpreparedness of our military to deal with insurgencies and low intensity conflicts. That is the reason we lost in Vietnam, and the same unpreparedness we have shown in Iraq. Gaddo is wrong, there is no parallel wit the WTC attacks, those were true terrorist acts directed at civilians, while the Lebanon attack he survived was a combat action by the enemy on our troops, unconventional as it was.

Making you think twice......

Submitted by sageadvice on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 6:41am.

I somewhat agree.
But what is non-conventional about bombs of any kind?
We dropped and flew unmanned ones by the millions on the cities over there!
Using excuses like we didn't know they had bombs, or hiding ability, or help, doesn't cut the mustard any more.
We were incompetent with our planning---not our dog face fighting.
I don't know why some still defend our current administration, including all those who have resigned, for their incompetence.
Now, don't give me that crap about criticizing our troops---They are excellent, has nothing to do with the troops.

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