Multinational Force in Lebanon

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US Navy Amphibian arriving in Beirut, 1982

The Multinational Force in Lebanon (also MNF) was an international peacekeeping force created in 1982, after the demand was made by Lebanon to the UN's secretary general, and initially to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The participants included contingents of United States Marines, United States Army and Navy SEALs, units of the French 11th Parachute Brigade, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment, other units of the French Foreign Legion,[1] Italian soldiers, and British soldiers. The force was dissolved in March 1984, soon after the October 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.

Background[edit]

Commission for Philip Habib for his trip as Special Representative of the President of the United States for the Middle East in 1982, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
11th Parachute Brigade French Paratroopers in Lebanon armed with an LRAC F1.
The UUSMC barracks in Beirut, 1982

Americans had previously been involved in Lebanese affairs, during the 1958 Lebanon crisis. In that intervention, 14,000 Americans were sent to Lebanon by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to quell the opposition to President Camille Chamoun and neighboring countries. The operation was considered a success.

In 1975, the Lebanese Civil War began. Further instability was caused in 1982 by the invasion of Lebanon by Israel, which targeted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) based there.

As the capital of Beirut was besieged by the Israelis, U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib negotiated with the warring parties for an end to the fighting and for the establishment of a peacekeeping force in Beirut. In August 1982, he was successful in bringing about an agreement for the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a three-nation Multinational Force (MNF) during the period of the evacuation.

Initial landing[edit]

Main article: Operation Épaulard I

The French troops landed in Beirut on August 21, with the U.S. Marines (blt2/8 32nd MAU. (Marines and US Army Soldiers) arriving on August 25 and the Italians (2nd Bersaglieri "Governolo") on August 26. This initial force consisted of 850 Americans, 860 French, and 575 Italian troops.[2] The PLO withdrew from Beirut to Tunisia on August 30; the Multinational Force troops later withdrew to ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

Increased involvement[edit]

Checkpoint 4, manned by U.S. troops and Lebanese Army soldiers. Beirut 1982

On September 14, Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated. Then, from September 16–18, hundreds of Palestinian refugees were murdered by the Phalangist-led Lebanese Forces (LF) militia (who were allied with the Israeli Army and had the presidency in Lebanon), backed by some elements of the also pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army (SLA) in the Sabra and Shatila massacres. This incident prompted U.S. President Ronald Reagan to organize a new MNF "Multinational Force" with France and Italy. On September 29, this new force entered Beirut, with about 1,200 troops. Their stated mission was to help the new Lebanese government and army with stability.

This new force consisted of the 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment & US Army Soldiers. They were followed by the 3rd Battalion 8th Marines in October 1982. The Battalion Landing Team's headquarters was based at Beirut International Airport. France's contingent of 1,500 paratroopers were based in West Beirut, and 1,400 Italian troops (paratroopers of the Folgore Brigade, Bersaglieri regiments and the San Marco Regiment were based in the area between West Beirut and the airport. In February 1983, United Kingdom armored cars from 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards joined the MNF.

During the winter of 1982-1983, the MNF was successful in its mission. Though officially neutral, the force was responsible for preventing attacks from various Lebanese factions and the Israeli Army. The MNF increasingly came under fire from factions of the Lebanese Civil War. Foot and vehicle patrols were conducted routinely throughout Beirut in an effort to gather information and provide a visible presence demonstrating multinational force commitment to the people of Lebanon.

On February 14, 1983, the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines relieved the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines in the American sector. When harsh winter weather with low temperatures, high winds, and deep snows threatened Lebanese villages high in the mountains northeast of Beirut, the Marines were asked by the Lebanese Government on February 21 to provide a relief column to rescue Lebanese civilians stranded in Qatarba. The rescue mission was conducted February 22–24. Lt.Col Don Anderson, the commander of Battalion Landing Team 2/6 led a column of nine thirty ton amphibious tractors (amtracs) and several wheeled vehicles across rugged mountain terrain, reaching Qatarba 16 hours after leaving the Beirut International Airport.[3] The amtracs created a landing zone by packing down deep snows so that additional food and heating fuel could be delivered to the village by helicopters. Civilian casualties who could not be treated on-scene by the battalion medical team were airlifted out, while those needing less serious medical attention were evacuated to Beirut by amtrac on February 24, 1983.[4]

On April 18, 1983, the U.S. embassy in West Beirut was bombed, killing 63 people. A suicide terrorist driving a van packed with 2000 pounds of high explosives (PETN) crashed into the embassy lobby detonating the payload.[5] This blast was a clear sign of opposition to the MNF. The embassy was located in the French sector, and French Marines immediately responded to provide security and begin rescue operations. The French commander, Brigadier General Michel Datin placed his responding forces under the operational control of Colonel Jim Mead, the MAU Commander.[6] Lt.Col Don Anderson provided a reinforced rifle company (Company F) to take over security the embassy compound to enable rescue and recovery operations. Once recovery operations were concluded, a heavily reinforced rifle platoon from Company F was stationed at the embassy through the end of May 1983, when 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines was relieved by 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.[4]

The Israeli Army agreed on May 17, 1983 to withdraw from Beirut. In the summer of 1983 U.S. troops at the airport were repeatedly shelled by members of Shiite Muslim and Druze militias. Several Marines were killed and others wounded. In response, the U.S. warships USS Bowen (FF-1079), USS Pharris (FF-1094), USS Virginia (CGN-38), USS John Rodgers (DD-983), and USS Arthur W. Radford (DD-968) shelled Shiite and Druze positions near Beirut.

Barracks bombing[edit]

Picture of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing

The MNF was given a devastating blow on October 23 in an act of terrorism, when truck bombs driven by suicide bombers destroyed the U.S. & French barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen and 58 French soldiers. With this incident, the MNF suffered its greatest number of casualties and drew calls to withdraw from Lebanon. Still, President Reagan said the troops would stay.

Later confrontations and withdrawal[edit]

Vought A-7E Corsair II aircraft of attack squadrons VFA-15 Valions and VFA-87 Golden Warriors of Carrier Air Wing Six (CVW-6) line the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV-62) in December 1983

French Navy warplanes retaliated in November to the bombings by striking Iranian Revolutionary Guard's barracks in Baalbek, in the Beqaa Valley, though it did minor damage.[7] At this time, tensions rose between Syria and the United States as Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired on U.S. aircraft as they patrolled Lebanese airspace. This culminated in the first direct U.S. military involvement in Lebanon on December 4. After being fired upon by Syrian missiles, U.S. aircraft targeted Syrian missile batteries in the mountains east of Beirut. In the process, Syrian 9K31 Strela-1 or man-portable Strela 2 surface-to-air missiles shot down two American planes, an A-6 Intruder and an A-7 Corsair. The pilot of the A-6, Lieutenant Mark Lange[8] (flying from USS John F. Kennedy), was killed; his Bombardier/Navigator, Lieutenant Bobby Goodman, ejected and was captured by Syrian soldiers. Lt. Goodman was held for 30 days before his released was facilitated by Jesse Jackson. Lt. Lange's body was returned. From the A-7, the pilot ejected and was rescued, although he suffered severe injuries.

On the same day, eight U.S. Servicemen were killed when Syrian-backed militias shelled the airport observation post.

The USS New Jersey fires a salvo from her 16 inch guns during a deployment off the coast of Beirut

In response to more fire, the battleship USS New Jersey fired on Lebanon on December 14 and 15. Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat and his PLO left Tripoli on December 20 on five Greek ships bound for Tunisia. The MNF was targeted again by bombs on December 21, with a truck bomb killing a French soldier and 14 Lebanese outside a French military base, and a bomb killing four at a Western-owned bar.

The captured American crewman, Lt. Bobby Goodman, was released January 3, 1984, after negotiations with Reverend Jesse Jackson. At the same time, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was pressured for a troop withdrawal from Lebanon by Congress. These calls were increased after the Lebanese PM and his cabinet resigned February 5. Shiite and Druze militiamen began fighting outside Beirut on February 6 and threw the capital into chaos. Reagan ordered the 1,700 Marines to begin withdrawing on February 7. The following day, February 8, the USS New Jersey was again called upon to fire its main battery, this time against Syrian and Druze positions in the Beqaa Valley. During this Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) mission, the "Big J" fired 288 rounds of its 16" projectiles. Thirty rounds hit a Syrian command post, killing the general commanding Syrian forces in Lebanon, and several of his senior officers. The Italians pulled out on February 20; the Marines followed on February 26. The last French troops left on March 31.

Casualties[edit]

The United States lost 265 servicemen in Lebanon, all but nine in hostile incidents, and all but 24 in the barracks bombing. 159 were wounded. France lost 89 soldiers (58 of them in the barracks bombing)[9] and the Italians lost two.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jordan, David (2005). The History of the French Foreign Legion: From 1831 to the Present Day. Globe Pequot. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-59228-768-0. 
  2. ^ Cimbala, Stephen J.; Forster, Peter K. (2010-04-10). Multinational Military Intervention: NATO Policy, Strategy and Burden Sharing. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-4094-0228-2. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Hammel, Eric (1985), The Root, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 
  4. ^ a b U.S. Marine Corps (1983), Command Chronology of 2d Battalion, 6th Marines January-June 1983, Quantico, VA: Marine Corps University Archives 
  5. ^ Geraghty, Timothy (2009), Peacekeepers at War, Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc., p. 19 
  6. ^ Geraghty, Timothy (2009), Peacekeepers at War, Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc., p. 20 
  7. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1989/08/06/world/83-strike-on-lebanon-hard-lessons-for-us.html
  8. ^ At the U.S. Naval Academy, in Alumni Hall, a music room was named for Lt. Lange, Class of 1979.
  9. ^ Khoury, Hala. "Last French peacekeepers ready to leave Beirut." UPI, March 31, 1984.
  10. ^ Butturni, Paula. "Italians begin final pull-out from Beirut." UPI, February 19, 1984.

External links[edit]