Operation Fluid Drive
Operation Fluid Drive was a non-combatant evacuation operation led by the United States to evacuate American citizens and other foreign nationals from Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War. On 20 June 1976, the USS Spiegel Grove transported 110 Americans and 157 nationals of other countries from Lebanon to Piraeus, Greece. On 27 July, 300 additional persons, including 155 Americans, were evacuated to Piraeus. The cruiser USS Little Rock was present off the Lebanese coast during both evacuations.
United States President Gerald Ford ordered commencement of the operation on 20 June 1976 at 1:23 a.m. EDT. Fighting on land routes to Damascus, Syria, disrupted the original plan of a road convoy evacuation.
At 10:37 a.m. Beirut time, an unarmed United States Navy landing craft opened its bow ramp at Bain Militaire to allow 263 evacuees to board. U.S. diplomats in Lebanon had finished the truce arrangements needed for the evacuation only hours beforehand. The evacuees were unarmed, and were escorted by numerous Palestinian guerrillas and leftist Lebanese army soldiers. One family refused to continue with the evacuation when told, incorrectly, that their dog was not allowed.
After a 25-minute trip, the landing craft reached the USS Spiegel Grove, which remained three miles offshore. The United States Sixth Fleet flagship, the USS Little Rock, pulled alongside the USS Spiegel Grove to greet the refugees on board. The United States convoy consisted of five ships in total, and three Soviet warships, including the Kerch, shadowed the fleet. The USS Spiegel Grove then sailed to Piraeus, Greece, arriving on 22 June 1976.
On 26 July 1976, the Sixth Fleet prepared to evacuate an additional 500 Americans and others from Lebanon. Dockside security was again provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Although 500 people were signed up to leave the country, only 155 Americans and 145 nationals of other countries were evacuated.
- "CBS Evening News for Sunday, Jun 20, 1976". Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- "Evacuees aboard ship in party mood". The Miami News. 21 June 1976. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- "Lebanon Truce Signed". The Palm Beach Post (Beirut). 30 July 1976. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- "USS Little Rock 1975 Beirut Civil War". USS Little Rock Association. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- "Americans Flee Beirut". St. Petersburg Times (Beirut). 21 June 1976. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- "263 leave Lebanon aboard U.S. vessel". The Gazette (Beirut). 21 June 1976. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- McManus, Doyle (22 June 1976). "U.S. Rescue Ship in 'Fluid Drive' From Lebanon Peril". The Schenectady Gazette (Aboard USS Spiegel). Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- MEED Arab Report. London: Middle East Economic Digest Ltd. 1976.
- "6th Fleet to evacuate 500 from Lebanon". The Morning Record (Beirut). 27 July 1976. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
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