Beirut Barracks Bombing
On October 23, 1983, American peacekeeping forces were attacked by terrorists with the use of a suicide truck bomber in Bierut, Lebanon. 241 American servicemen were killed and more than 60 others were injured. Less than 2 minutes later, another truck bomb went off at French barracks killing 58 French servicemen and injuring 15. In the attack on the American barracks, the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy Sailors, and three Army Soldiers. This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II (2,500 in one day) and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on January 31, 1968, the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War.
Here is a news report about the attack from ABC News:
To this day, there is no clear responsible party. Most opinion seems to lead towards Hezbollah, although they did not formally announce their existence until 1985. But they were thought to still be “underground” at that point, and backed by Iran and Syria. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have denied any involvement.
President Ronald Reagan called the attack a “despicable act” and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon.
In retaliation for the attacks, France launched an airstrike in the Beqaa Valley against alleged Islamic Revolutionary Guards positions. President Reagan assembled his national security team and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards believed to be training Hezbollah militants. A joint American-French air assault on the camp where the bombing was planned was also approved by Reagan and French president François Mitterrand. Defense Secretary Weinberger, however, lobbied successfully against the missions, because at the time he was not certain that Iran was behind the attack.
So, there was no real retaliation for the Beirut bombing from the U.S. The Marines were moved offshore where they could not be targeted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. This was completed on February 26, four months after the barracks bombing; the rest of the multinational force was withdrawn by April.
Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada)
On October 25, 1983, only two days after the attacks in Bierut, President Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada, code named Operation Urgent Fury. Grenada is a Caribbean island nation with a population of just over 100,000. Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. Rebels seized power in a coup in 1979. In 1983, there was a power struggle that resulted in the murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. An military council was formed to rule the country. They announced a four-day total curfew where anyone seen on the streets would be subject to execution.
In March 1983, Ronald Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the “Soviet-Cuban militarization” due to an excessively long airplane runway being built as well as intelligence sources. He said that the 9,000-foot runway and the oil storage tanks were unnecessary for commercial flights, and that evidence pointed that the airport was to become a Cuban-Soviet military airbase.
Another reason for the invasion was that there were U.S. medical students at St. George’s University on Grenada. The university was near the controversial runway, and there was the possibility that they could have been taken hostage as U.S. diplomats in Iran had been four years earlier.
On October 25 Operation Urgent Fury began. It was the first major military operation conducted by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War, several days of fighting commenced, resulting in a U.S. victory. In mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the Governor-General, U.S. forces withdrew.
Here is Ronald Reagan’s address to the nation regarding Beirut and Grenada: