August 20

This Day in History

General Interest

Aug 20, 1982:

U.S. Marines deployed to Lebanon

During the Lebanese Civil War, a multinational force including 800 U.S. Marines lands in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. It was the beginning of a problem-plagued mission that would stretch into 17 months and leave 262 U.S. servicemen dead.

In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and in August 1982 a multinational force arrived to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Marines left Lebanese territory on September 10 but returned on September 29 following the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian militia. The next day, the first U.S. Marine to die during the mission was killed while defusing a bomb. On April 18, 1983, the U.S. embassy in Beirut was devastated by a car bomb, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. Then, on October 23, Lebanese terrorists evaded security measures and drove a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. Fifty-eight French soldiers were killed almost simultaneously in a separate suicide terrorist attack. On February 7, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the end of U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force.

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