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DEJA DISASTER: LEBANON 1958 As usual the Airborne does the job quietly

25 YEARS BEFORE THE BEIRUT BOMBING: U.S. AMBASSADOR SAVES MARINES FROM ANNIHILATION; ARMY AIRBORNE SAVES LEBANON

"What they saw explains why the marines got all the publicity. There were more marine photographers and photo equipment in the building than could possibly be imagined. To the troopers, it appeared as though the marines viewed Lebanon as a photo-op; the Army considered it serious business"

"Lebanon Intervention-1958" by Lawrence "Larry" Lenahan, Airborne Quarterly--Summer 1998 Page 21

One of the first casualties in war is THE TRUTH.

Taking advantage of this for decades has been the marine corps (mc) propaganda machine which seeks to further the McBureaucracy at the expense of the Nation and its defense. The truth is that had it not been for the intervention of the U.S. Ambassador, the McGlory hogs would have been wiped out by expertly positioned Lebanese guns in 1958---25 years later--in 1983---there was no reprieve as a truck loaded with explosives slaughtered the cocky McBluffers, leaving 265 dead and U.S. prestige shattered in the middle east. "What goes around, comes around" The truth in the case of the Lebanon 1958 crisis was that the U.S. Army deployed Airborne Battle Groups to the country--1st Airborne Battle Group, 187th Infantry (Rakkasans) of the 24th Airborne Brigade from Germany.

For the official history of the Lebanon Crisis click here

To learn more about how the marines were almost slaughtered in 1958, read on.

At approximately 0600, 15 July 1958 at Gablingen Kaserne, a suburb of Augsburg, Germany, some 55 miles west of Munich, the concepts of raid deployment and joint services operations moved from contingency planning to reality. Paratroopers throughout the 1st Airborne Battle Group 187th Infantry, 24th Airborne Brigade, 24th Infantry Division were rudely awakened by sergeants loudly yelling "Alert".

At approximately the same time all personnel who were living off the Kaserne received a phone call at home telling them a practice alert had been called. A number of officers of the 187th were away from Gablingen, scattered over 2,000 square miles of Bavaria. They had to be tracked down and told to report back to Gablingen immediately. They had been away preparing for a war game pitting the skills of another division's troops against the 10th Special Forces Group stationed at Bad Tolz.

While alerts were a common event in Germany, this one was different. Instead of loading on deuce-and-a-halfs and other assorted vehicles, and moving out to a wooded location in the forests of Bavaria, the troopers were directed to get their gear together and then go to the mess hall for breakfast. At the same time, the entrance to the Kaserne was sealed to anyone leaving, trooper or German national. Thus commenced the United States' first application of a new concept, Rapid Deployment.

Some time in 1956, probably before the Suez Crisis, Brigadier General David W. Gray, then Chief of the Operations Division, Department of the Army, later commander of the 24th Airborne Brigade and Army Task Force 201, was directed to draft instructions to United States Army Europe (USAREUR) for it to develop contingency plans for a limited crisis intervention in the Middle East. USAREUR assigned the task to the 9th Infantry Division. It developed a plan involving a Task Force, which apparently consisted of a reinforced regimental combat team. Later in 1956, when the 11th Airborne Division replaced the 9th Infantry, it inherited the plan. Planners in the 11th ABN modified it for use by Airborne units the newly created Pentomic concept which replaced Regiments with battle groups.

The planning leading up to Operation Bluebat and the activation of the Army Task Force 201, of which the 187th was an integral element, designated as Task Force Alpha (Alpha), preceded the Suez Crisis of October 1956. Although the United States' was not directly involved in the Suez crisis, its position of prestige in the Middle East suffered because of it. Contributing to the loss of prestige was the United States' earlier withdrawal of support for the Aswan High Dam project. The withdrawal of support caused Egypt's President Nasser to seek aid from the Soviet Union.

The United States' response to the perceived foothold by the Soviets in the Middle East was to initiate a diplomatic counteroffensive, the cornerstone of which was the "Eisenhower Doctrine." The Doctrine was an offer of military and economic assistance by the United States to a nation that believed it was in danger of coming under the Soviet Union's direct or indirect domination, regardless of whether it was attributable to subversion or invasion by another country.

THE THREAT

On 13 April 1957, shortly after Congress approved the Eisenhower Doctrine, King Hussein of Jordan uncovered an attempted pro-Nasser coup d'etat. The U.S. quickly agreed to the King's request for aid by sending the Sixth Fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean as a demonstration of American concern; and 10 million dollars was sent as the first installment of a new economic and military aid program. Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan--the regional members of the Baghdad Pact--were also of concern to the United States because of their ties to the West.

The government of Lebanon was unique because its virtual existence was determined by the willingness of diverse religious groups and clans to honor the terms of an oral covenant agreed to by the major Muslim and Christian leaders some twelve years earlier. From the earliest days of planning, Lebanon was considered a country at risk. One of the main reasons for this was that Lebanon was perceived by its neighbors to be more pro-western than pro-Arabic because of its actions during and after the Suez Crisis. During the three year period of general unrest. Essentially, there was an ongoing political struggle between the religious and clan groups; and an ideological struggle causing polarization between Lebanese nationalism and growing pan-Arabism. Lebanon's authorities, most of whom were Christian, insisted on two things: maintaining the country's autonomy and cooperating with the West.

The degree of risk was to increase markedly in 1958 as a crisis situation evolved. Feeding on the unrest of the population and the riots, Egypt, which was receiving aid from the Soviet Bloc, had on 1 February 1958, merged with Syria and Yemen to form the United Arab Republic (UAR) and initiated a psychological war against Lebanon's President Chamoun. Additionally, Syria was contributing to the problem of sending arms and economic assistance to the rebels in Lebanon. While the United States government was concerned with the developments in Lebanon, there was also a deep concern that it might be called upon to intervene in Lebanon. The concerns can best be stated as a concern that the presence of American troops would be construed as an intervention in a purely internal conflict centered upon the interest of Lebanon's President Chamille Chamoun to continue in office after his constitutionally limited, single, six-year team expired. The Eisenhower administration did not have the desire to have American troops deployed on the Beaches of Beirut if the Lebanese armed forces themselves were not attempting to put down the conflict, or if, even worse, the Lebanese armed forces might resist and American or allied landing. This later concern almost became reality shortly after the first U.S. marines landed.

8 May 1958, was a fateful day in Lebanon, marked by the assassination of the left-wing editor of a daily Beirut newspaper known for its outspoken pan-Arabism. The next day, 9 May, saw Lebanese opposition groups call a general strike, and riots break out in the city of Tripoli. The rioting quickly lead to a civil war in Lebanon, which in turn rapidly assumed the proportions of an armed stalemate. On 13 May 1958, a band of Druze attacked the president's palace in Bay-al-Din. Disturbed by these events, President Chamoun advised the ambassadors of Great Britain, France and the U.S. that he might be calling on them for military assistance.

Early in June, the Lebanese Foreign Minister, in compliance with one of the Eisenhower administration's conditions for intervention, lodged before the U.N. Security Council an official complaint of interference in the internal affairs of his country by the United Arab Republic. Accepting the complaint on its face as valid, the Security Council voted to send observers to Lebanon.

In contrast to the troubles brewing in Lebanon, neighboring Iraq posed no anxieties to the U.S. as it was firmly aligned with the U.S. During the early hours of 14 July this would change when King Faisal and Crown Prince Adbul Illah were assassinated in a coup d'etat. In Lebanon, jubilation broke out in areas where the anti-Chamoun sentiment prevailed. Fearful that he might be the next head of state to be assassinated, President Chamoun requested military Republic (UAR) intervention, and quickly, within forty-eight hours. Washington also had received very reliable information that a similar coup d'etat had been scheduled against King Hussein of Jordan for 17 July.

THE REACTION

President Eisenhower, at 1830, 14 July, issued a directive that the first echelons of American forces were to arrive in Lebanon by 0900, Washington time, the following day. The Eisenhower Doctrine authorizing the President to provide military and economic assistance to requesting nations to preserve their independence was being tested.

At 1400, the Chief of Naval Operations had ordered the U.S. Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) eastward to land marines in Lebanon; the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) alerted U.S. Forces in Europe and the Tactical Air Command in the United States to be ready for immediate military action; around 1830, the JCS activated the Specified Command Middle East (SPECOMME) and designated Admiral James L. Holloway, Commander in Chief, North Atlantic and Mediterranean as the Commander in Chief, SPECOMME (CINCSPECOMME). Until the activation of Bluebat, Adm. Holloway in the capacity as CINCSPECOMME was a commander without assigned forces. When the word reached Admiral Holloway that the Specified Command was being activated, he had less than fifteen hours in which to establish a beachhead at Beirut. Prior to the United States' involvement in the Lebanon crisis, between 2,000 and 4,000 people injured or killed, primarily in the Muslim areas of Beirut and Tripoli.

Word was passed on to high-level Army commanders in Europe that an alert might be called. At 0200, Germany, on 15 July the lowest level of a multi-level alert was called. During most of their tour in Germany, the 187th and 503rd alternated their alert status. The one called on 15 July should have resulted in the 503rd being assigned as the lead element. But, due to a recent injury to the leg of the 503rd's commander, Col. Hayes, Gen Gray assigned the alert to the 187th. Gen. Gray knew that because of recent training at Hohenfels and the previous day's jump into Gablingen the 187th was totally prepared for what was about to unfold.

In March of 1957, whether by happenstance or design, Gen. Gray was transferred to Germany to serve as the Assistant Division Commander of the 11th Airborne Division, where he would become intimately involved in the planning for any deployment. As the plans underwent refinement, it was envisioned that the execution would be as an airdrop or air land in Jordan. Entering Lebanon was not considered. Most importantly, the Division's planners, a very small group, had been given instructions to keep their planning activities quiet, as were others whose units would have a role in Bluebat, should it become a reality. The planning was classified as top secret, with a strict need to know policy enforced at all times.

A meeting was held in London, in September of 1957, for the purpose of acquainting USAREUR and Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (NELM) representatives from the area commands of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who would probably be part of any intervention operation. Between September and November, the JCS advised Admiral Holloway, Commander in Chief, United States Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean eastward to land marines in Lebanon; the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) alerted U. S. Forces in Europe and the Tactical Air Command in the United States to be ready for immediate military action; around 1830, the JCS activated the Specified Command Middle East (SPECOMME) and designated Admiral and Mediterranean as the Commander in Chief, SPECOMME (C{NCSPECOMME). Until the activation of Bluebat, Adm. Holloway in the capacity as CINCSPECOMME was a commander without assigned forces. When the word reached Admiral Holloway that the Specified Command was being activated, lie had less than fifteen hours in which to establish a beac~ead at Beirut. Prior to the United States' involvement in the Lebanon crisis, between 2,000 and 4,000 people were injured or killed, primarily in the Muslim areas of Beirut and Tripoli.

Prince Abdul Illali were assassinated in a coup d'etat. In Lebanon, jubilation broke out in areas where the antiChainoun sentiment prevailed. Fearful that he might be the next head of state to be assassinated, President Chainoun requested nnli~tary Republic (UAR) intervention, and quickly, witlijii forty-eight hours. Washington also had received very reliable liifonnation that a similar coup d'etat had been scheduled against King Hussein of Jordan for 17 July.

Word was passed on to high-level Army cominander~ in Europe that an alert might be called. At 0200, Germany, on 15 July the lowest level of a multi-level alert was called. During most of their tour in Germany, the 187th and 503rd alternated their alert status. The one called on 15 July should have resulted in the 503rd being assigned as the lead element. But, due to a recent ii~ury to the leg of the 503rd's commander, Col

Haynes, Gen. Gray assigned the alert to the 187th. Gen. Gray knew that because of recent training at Hohenfels and the previous day's jump into Gablingen the 187th was totally prepared for what was about to unfold.

In March of 1957, whether by happenstance or design, Gen. Gray was transferred to Germany to serve as the Assistant Division Cominander of the 11th Airborne Division, where he would become intimately involved in the planning for any deployment. As the plans underwent refinement, it was envisioned that the execution would be as an airdrop or air land in Jordan. Entering Lebanon was not considered. Most importantly, the Division's planners, a very small group, had been given instructions to keep their planning activities quiet, as were others whose units

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Summer 98-- The Airborne Qu~~rterIv -- 15~

would have a role in Bluebat, should it become a reality. The planning was classified as top secret, with a strict need to know policy enforced at all times.

A meeting was held in London, in September of 1957, for the purpose of acquainting USAREUR and Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (NELM) representatives from the area commands of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who would probably be part of any intervention operation. Between September and November, the JCS advised Admiral Holloway, Commander in Chief, United States Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM) that the overthrow of the government of Jordan, and, to a lesser extent, the probability of a coup d'etat in Lebanon, were distinct possibilities. The JCS also advised, in such an event, that rapid U.S. military action might be required. Planning for these contingencies was directed as a matter of urgency.

At a meeting in November 1957, again in London, but this time with more representatives of area commands in attendance then at the earlier meeting, Admiral Holloway, who had responsibility for the area where the intervention was likely to occur, issued the first Op Plan speci~ing a joint Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force Operation in Lebanon. Since the Sixth Fleet, which was assigned to the Mediterranean, was perpetually on the move, its proximity to Lebanon at a given time could range from very close to quite distant; it was decided the plan should be geared to addressing this issue. The Sixth Fleet's proximity to Lebanon on 15 July 1958 was the sole reason a Marine contingent arrived first on the scene. Had the Sixth Fleet been in the Western Mediterranean at the time, the 187th would have gone in first.

If the Specified Command was activated and the Army was called upon to participate in an intervention, the Army's organization would be designated Army Task Force 201. The Task Force would consist of five forces:

Force Alpha which would consist of the Task Force HQ and one airborne battle group from the 11th Airborne Division, Force Bravo, a second airborne battle group also from the 11th, to be deployed as circumstances warranted; Force Charlie, support units drawn from bases in Germany and France and designated 201st Logistical Command; Force Delta, other units which would be sea-lifted; and Force Echo, a medium tank battalion which would be sea lifted from Bremerhaven, Germany.

11th Abn Div deactivated--Airborne Brigade formed ii' the 24th Inf Div

 

The spring and early summer of 1958 were busy tinies for the troopers of the 1 ith Airborne. Early in the year, a decision had been made not to return the Division to the continental United States. Instead, it was to be deactivated ,in Germany on 1 July of that year; and the 24th Infantry Division would be activated in its place. However, it was decided to maintain an Airborne presence in Germany; so two of the 1 lth's battle groups, the 1/187th and 1/503rd, would remain on jump status, and collectively be designated as the 24th Airborne Brigade. In making this decision, the Army decided that those troopers in the 11th who had not completed their overseas tour of duty would replace the troopers of the 187th and 503rd who were going home. The transfers of troopers took place during May and June.

Something happened in May that has yet to be answered. An Alert restricting the troopers of the 187th and 503rd to their marshaling areas was held. While most Alerts lasted only a

 

Don't "mess" with the "U.S"! (A subtle "shop of force" that we had a Brigade of "airborne" raring to go!)

 

few hours, this one lasted seven days, and culminated on 24 May in a mass air drop of the 503rd at Wamer Kaserne in Munich. Following the alert, Gen. Gray was sent in mufti on a hurried trip to Cyprus to meet with British planners.

The purpose of the trip was to develop plans for a combined U.S.- British operation in Lebanon and/or Jordan. Shortly after that meeting, the plan, including an alternative with the U.S. going solo, was formulated in Cyprus. It was that plan which was assigned the code name Bluebat. Subsequent directives authorized coordinated US/UK planning with respect to Lebanon alone.

At the time of the July alert, it was not visualized that there would be ajoint U.S. Marine and Army operation.

Up until the 17 May alert, all of the planning for contingency operations had been closely guarded. One of the reasons why the planning had taken place so secrefly

 

 

 

16-- ~fhe Airborne Quarterly -- Summer 98

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was the fact that the Army units assigned to the Task Force were also assigned to NATO. The U.S., justifiably, was concerned that its NATO partners would object to the weakening of its Forces if the U.S. diverted some of its units assigned to NATO defense for other purposes.

The 17 May alert uncovered a number of deficiencies in Bluebat. To the extent possible these were worked on and corrective actions taken. The period between 17 May and 15 July 1958, saw many changes taking place; new leadership aiid soldiers were being transferred in; Airborne support units were being reduced in size; and the Airborne Brigade and new leg units were being formed. Nevertheless, training the 1 87th's and 503rd's troopers had to continue. Also, the 187th's and 503rd's days with the 24th Infantry Division were numbered. Both units were scheduled to return to the conunental United States in early

1959

1 July 1958 was sad day for the Airborne. The I lth Airborne's colors were cased for the last time while the I 87tli was away training. The Division which had served its country well in the Pacific Theater during World War 11 would pass into history. It had been chosen by General McArthur to be the first American division to occupy Japan after World War 11; and it had been the parent division for the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment prior to its designation as the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team for deployment to Korea.

The troopers who had completed their tour of duty in Gerniany returned home; those who had not, were assigned elsewhere. The lucky ones were either assigned to the 187th or the 503rd, both of which would remain on active jump status as part of the 24th Airborne Brigade, 24th Infantry Division.

The 187th returned to Gablingen from two weeks in Hohenfels, a huge training area in southern Gerrnany, on 14 July via air drop from U.S. Army UIA Otter aircraft. After two weeks (it seemed a lot longer) of hard training in Hohenfels, the troopers looked forward to resting a bit, cleaning their gear, getting passes, and getting back into the routine of barracks life.

Deployment

During the ensuing hours after the alert was called, the troopers were told to get their gear together and be ready to move out. But first, after several tractor-trailer trucks arrived at the Kaserne, the troopers were told they could exchange any worn web gear with 110 questions asked, and

pick up a second canteen. Instructions of this type

most unusual and further raised their interest as to what was happening; no one had told them anything.

manner of speaking, from the time the troopers were told of the alert until they were told to board the trucks, they had been hanging around waiting for any word as

was happening.

Prior to depaiting for Hohenfels, the 187th ha'~

out its GRANDIOS plans; all personnel had packed their "B" bags, and had stored their other personal effects

cardboard containers. It be would be several weeks after the deployment before they received their "B" bags in Lebanon, and close to four months before they were al

to open the cardboard boxes. Dick Becker, a short-timer with H & H Company who ended up in Lebanon for a few days, never did see his personal effects again. When

returned to Gablingen en route home, he found the Kaserne tightly locked up; and his personal effects were never shipped to him.

Wlijle the 187th was sianding by, awaiting orders to move to the marshaling area at Furstenfeldbruck Air Base, in Munich -- a forward deployment base for NATO air units

 

 

In other words, "HOW ABLE"!

 

-- things were happening. A German Air Force unit that had been occupying part of the base had been asked to leave; and they did so within an hour and a half. Gen. Gray, then the commander of the 24th Airborne Brigade and Arm~ Task Force 201, had flown by helicopter from Augsburg to Munich and met with several Air Force officers, at which time he was given an estimate of the airlift that would be available.

The Air Force unit that would be providing the airlift was the 322nd Air Division. It was as Gen. Gray put it. sort of a vagabond airline that on any day might have aircraft scattered all the way from India to Africa to United States." In other words aircraft had to be called in from great distances; and indeed they were.

Although the Sixth Fleet was at that time stealning away from the Eastern Mediterranean, elements of one of the U.S. Marine landing teams was sufficiently close to Beirnt that it could comply with President Eisenhower's directive, and establish a beachhead south of Beirut, adjacent to the international airport. The balance of the Marines would

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~ummer ~ -- I ne AirI)orne yuarteriy --

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arrive during the following few days, some alinost simultaneously with the Army. Hence, that is why some Marines landed in Lebanon before Army Task Force 201.

Intervention

During the early hours of the intervention, there were three events, which without intercession by outside parties --diplomats and high ranking military officers of the U.S. and Lebanon -- could easily have resulted in an outcome significantly different from that recorded in history. To a great extent, luck played a role in the favorable outcome and overrode the rigidity of the orders given to the Marine and Naval commanders in attendance at the time.

The second was a plea from President Chamoun for U.S. Marines to immediately proceed to his palace to protect him from a possible assassination. The U.S. commander refused to do so, and nothing happened. It is believed that Gen. Chehab was able to prevent any attempt on the President's life. Had President Chamoun been assassinated and word gotten out that U.S. Marines refused him protection, who knows what the repercussions might have been in Lebanon, throughout the middle East, and the world.

From about 0600, 15 July, in Munich, Brigadier General George C. Speidel, the 24th's Artillery Cominander and a paratrooper of long standing, had brought together and was directing the activities of the heavy drop rigging platoon and other members of Departure Airfield Control Group. Early in the afternoon, the fourth and highest level of alert was declared directing Task Force 201 HQ and Force Alpha to converge on Furstenfeldbruck, which they did over the next three hours. Throughout the marshaling phase of the operations, the Russians were at the fence surrounding the air base taking pictures.

By 1600, aircraft had begun landing; and the overall Operation was taking shape; and at 1800 Force Alpha (the 187th ABG) closed at Furstenfeldbruck Airfield, Munich the. Sometime after arriving at Furstenfeldbruck, the troops were issued their parachutes, two-days C-rations, and received double loads of ammunition and hand grenades. These last two items were never distributed in mass and certainly not under anything but training conditions in specific areas. The troopers would remain

uninformed as to why they were there -- or at least it seemed that way -through the rainy night in their pup tents, only to be roused early the next morning, given some chow, and loaded on die alrcraft. Late the previous evening Gen. Gray received the green light to go. However, the departure was delayed due to the fact the heavy drop was still being rigged and the U.S. had not received permission to overfly Austria.

"Full Field" in Lebanon--3/B/l/187th ABG I~'n'aban Photo

 

 

The first was a request from the Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army, General Fuad Chehab that the Marines not land, but proceed by ship to the port of Beirut and remain aboard the ship. The General, a Marionite Christian patrician, a descendent of a family that had ruled Lebanon 150 years earlier, was confident that the opposition would take no steps to prevent the American landing; he could not be sure about the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese Army did nothing during the beachhead.

 

 

 

 

 

18-- The Airborue Quart~rIv -- Summer 98

Those who were assigned to the new, to them at least, C-i 30s, found themselves in the fastest air transports of the day. Those who loaded on the C-124s found themselves inside the belly of a behemoth of a plane with two decks. If you were one of those assigtied to die upper deck you had to struggle, fully loaded -carrying a parachute, your horseshoe wrapped field pack, weapon, ammo and whatever other gear you were carrying with you on a combat jump -- up a narrow set of stairs which was more like a ladder, asking yourself, "How in heaven am 1 supposed to jump out of this thing?" Then there were those who ended up on the aging, lumbering C-i 19s. If

they could get off tlie ground, gain enough airspeed to stay aloft, and not shake the heck out of you en route, you had

Their "B" bags did not accompany them, but were bein~ transported to Bremerhaven for shipment to Lebanon. It would be a long while before the troopers would see them.

A RAKKASAN "repeat" of Kimpo

in '50!

 

a fairly good chance of getting to your destination,

eventually. The first aircraft, a C- 119 took off at 08 17,

16 July, en route to Adana Air Base, Turkey via France

and Italy. The C-124s and C-i 30s would take more direct

routes, landing for refueling in Italy.

Those flying over Austria would fmd themselves accompanied by fighters from that nation's Air Force. Austria had not given the U.S. permission to overfly it en route to Turkey; nor did Greece. The refusal to grant permission caused the movement to Turkey to take longer than planned. The troopers landing in Adana would find themselves possessing only their parachutes, the pack on their backs, two canteens, and their combat equipment.

 

 

 

 

-'('1

While the 187th was in flight to Adana, the third of the potentially cataclysmic events was taking place in Lebanon, just prior to the time the Marines planned to leave their beachhead to enter Beirut en route to the port area. United States Ambassador Robert MeClintock discovered that most of the available artillery and armor of the Lebanese Army garrison in Beirut had lined up, with guns placed for enfilade fire in a T-formation, along the main route of access down which the Marines' column of tanks and amphibious personnel carriers were to move. Upon learning of the situation, the Ambassador sent word to the senior Marine commander on shore, who despite the extreme rigidity of his orders, agreed to withhold the deployment of his forces into Beirut for one hour. During this brief breathing spell, Ambassador McClintock called upon the President of Lebanon and Gen. Chehab suggesting that he and the General should go out to the site in an effort to forestall what might have been a highly explosive situation. The General agreed to do so. Upon

arriving at the airport road, they found the Lebanese force opposing the halted column of Marines. By happenstance, Admiral Holloway arrived at the site of the confrontation at the time

1/4: the Anibassador and General arrived. The two officers repaired to a nearby army physical

training school where they discussed the matter and arrived at a mutually satisfactory solution -Gen. Chehab gave the necessary instructions to arrange for a peaceful entry into the port area. It was subsequenfly leamed that the Lebanese units had orders to fire on the Marines. However, the

orders did not originate with the President of

- Lebanon, Gen. Chehab, or the government, but

were issued by certain young officers. In the end the Marines were led into Beirut by Ambassador McClimock and Admiral Holloway, in the company of General Chebab.

Getting ~squared away"! 1/187th ABG in Lebanon US Army Photo

At 0600, 17 July, the last C- 124 arrived at Adana with 187th ABG commander Col. Thom~~s Sharkey aboard; and by 1600, Force Alpha had closed on Adana. After landing at Adana, Gen. Gray met with the Base Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas and Brig. Gen. James Roberts, USAF. Lt. Col. Thomas, who had been looking

forward to a change of station after receiving his transfer orders, was confronted with the realization that his alinost empty base was about to be inundated with one of the

 

 

 

 

Summer 98 --The Airborlie Quarterly --19

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The entry to Beirut Airport was not a textbook one by any standard for several reasons: first, the airport officials would not give the aircraft coming in from Adana priority in landing; they would have to be integrated with the civilian aircraft arrivals which were not liglit; second, only one of the two main runways was open for landings; the other was closed as it was undergoing construction to lengthen it; and third, the taxiway that was supposed to have been made available for heavy drop loads was not a~'rn'l able.

Creative paratroopers solved the problein, according to Gen. Gray. He later commented, ".. as each aircraft turned into the taxiway still rolling at considerable speed, a soldier jumped off and sprinted forward to establish an assembly point for his planeload. The other soldiers caine tumbling out behind him while the plane was still rolling, neafly stacked their rifles in a line designated by the guide, then raced back to the plane to unload the A-7 containers and weapons bags. In a matter of several minutes, the plane was proceeding to the runway for takeoff. 11 A Pan Am representative who saw what was happening later told. him, "It was amazing. One moment the place was full of soldiers, and the next minute they had just disappeared."

Although not identical, the unloading of the heavy drop was equally creative and effective, and impressed all who saw it. Some air crews and troopers reported their aircraft were fired on while on the final approach to land. However, there were no reports of shooting once the aircraft landed.

Immediately after unloading the aircraft, the 187th went about its business of establisliing a perimeter around its

encampment area in an olive grove to the east of the airport. Task Force 20 l's CP had its first briefing at 1900, and at 2130 Gen. Gray reported to CINCPECOMME that Task Force Alpha had closed on the airport.

Most of the 187th did not see a Marine on landing and saw only a few thereafter. One reason was that the safeguarding of the airport and everything east and south of it soon became the 1 87th's prime responsibility, whereas everything north of the airport and east of Beirut became the Marines'.

Operations

During the first day or two, the troopers built a couple of sand bagged bunkers, and later, towers, to the north of the airport, overlooking a sandy area with clumps of tall grass and twenty to thirty foot depressions. Building the bunkers

largest concentrations of U.S. aircraft since World War II. The Air Force's Composite Air Strike Force consisting of fighters and bombers was also arriving from the continental U.S. Later in the day, Gen. Miller, USAF, and Gen. Gray were directed by Adin. Holloway to meet with him in Beirut. At the meeting he asked them to meet with his staff to plan for a possible air drop at Tripoli. After coniing up with a plan for a challenging air drop in the Tripoli area, Gen. Miller and Gen.

 

 

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A1issionfl~r today--3rdPiat. "B "/3/187 Lcnahan photo

 

 

 

 

Gray met again with Adin. Holloway, who then directed them to proceed to Beirut as originally planned.

Gen. Gray returned to Adana on 18 July, and sent a reconnaissance party to Beirut to look over the intended encampment area, and arrange for whatever assistance might be needed to move the Task Force's supplies on its arrival. By that time, he believed the internal threat to Lebanon was greater than an external one and requested that Task Force Alpha's "B" bags be sent by air rather than by sea. Unfortunately this did not occur.

Late in the afternoon or early evening, Gen. Gray met with the troops and filled them in on the details of the mission and issued the strict rules they were to operate under. Much to the dismay of some enthusiastic troopers who had been drilling holes in their wings with the anticipation of being able to have a combat jump star mounted on thein, they learned there would be no air drop; instead the Task Force would air land at Beirut. Nevertheless, Gen Gray directed that the heavy drop remained rigged in case an air drop was later required.

20-- The Airborne Quarterly -- Summer 98

in the heat of the day was one thing; manning them on a dark night was something else. Listening was all the troopers could do, that is, unless a helicopter flew over and dropped a parachute with a bright flare; then they lost their night vision, and/or thought they saw figures diving for cover attempting to hide. C-rations were the only safe food available for a long time; and the canteen water, warm as it was, had to be treated with those wonderftil iodide tablet

Within a few days, Major General Paul D. Adams arrived to take command of all American land forces in Lebanon

-Army and Marine. The headquarters of the American Land Forces Middle East (AMLANFOR) was in the

American Community School in downtown Beirut near an area known as the Basta. The Basta was the rebel stronghold; and until the last day, no United States soldier or Marine entered -- then it was Gen. Adams. A few days prior to AMLANFOR making the School its lieadquarters, the building bad come under fire. It was at the School that some troopers saw their first Marines. The troopers were assigned to provide security for the HQ.

As they arrived, the Marines were leaving. What they saw explanis why the Marines got all the publicity. There were more Marine photographers and photo equipment in the building than could possibly be imagined. To the troopers, it appeared as though the Marines viewed Lebanon as a photo-op; the Army considered it serious business.

D~g this seven day period, a liaison between the Army

and Marines was established, as was a Tactical Operations

Center to control the fire of all artillery -- Army and Navy.

The forward units of the 187th would have Navy Forward

Observers with them during most of their stay on the line.

After providing security for the building for a couple of days, the troopers went back to their unit which had moved to establish strong points along side roads and out to the hills surrounding Beirut. Lebanon is a small country covering approximately 10,452 square kilometers. Its width ranges from 32 to 88 kilometers.

The physical and topographic features of Lebanon vary widely within relatively short distances: the best soil is found in the western portion of the co~try (the maritime plain) with the poorest in the eastern (Lebanese mountains); there is an extremely narrow coastal strip in the west, on the Mediterranean, moving inland from the coast there are the rugged slopes of the foothills, a highland section and then the high mountains.

"Cha~ted up "ft)r a Show ofForce Jump-Lebanon '58' ~liahan

 

 

 

 

 

Elements of the 187th would remain in the hills until the last days of the intervention. From shortly after landing, the troopers would be taking increasing responsibility for more of what is best described as the front line. Some companies moved into positions occupied by other forces many years before. What some units found were trenches three to four feet deep, dug into the hard cement-like ground on hills looking eastward. It was so hard it would require extensive blasting by the engineers to dislodge enough soil so that latrines could be built. The daytime heat was overwhelining, often reaching into the lOOs. Drinking water would remain a challenge for the entire operation; and getting it to each company area often required lugging five gallon cans, two at a time up steep rugged trails. For those who were adventurous and purchased locally grown fruits and vegetables, dysentery awaited them. For some units, it was evidently like a plague. In addition to the dysentery and drinking water situation7 there was another problem, scorpions. Checking your boots before you put them became the norm, otherwise a scorpion's sting might await you.

The sides of the hills were not sheer, but steep, and covered with thorny bushes capable of tearing clothes apart and inflicting nasty wounds. Like at the airport, the nights on the Ihie were long and dark. In some positions, even on those on the top of a hill, the troopers did not even see a house light. They would see houses when they weni

foot patrol. The houses were generally scattered in smal

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Summer 98--The Airborne Quarterly --21

clusters deep in a valley; others would be found in small clan-like communities on the tops of hills. In moving through these communities, the troopers would often be ill at ease because men would be seen sitting outside their homes with a rifle or shotgun across their lap, or walking along the road with a gun in their arms. They did not know whether the individual was a rebel or not; and they could not disarm or detain them. At times moving along the road, they would hear a chanting or wailing, and not know where it was coming from or what it signified, only to all of a sudden come upon a community with either a wedding or funeral taking place.

nomination. However, that did not bring iinmediat~ PLC~~C to the troubled count:ry. During the first three w~';k~ ol August an increase in provocation by rebels was notcd. There were more incidents than before of sporadic and

 

sgt. J. R. Nettles, KIA

 

senseless small arms firing by the rebels. On the night of1'. 2 August, Sergeant James R. Nettles was killed by small arms fire while riding in a U.S. military vehicle in Beirut. Gen. Adains was very disturbed by the killing, and directed a U. S. show of force. It was a scaled down version of a combined Arrny, Air Force and Nljiiiie assault. Although invitations had been sent to I .ch~incs~ officials, all Lebatlese, rebels included, were permitted to observe it. He also privately informed the Lebanese that if the rebel who shot Sgt. Nettles was not arrested and prosecuted, the roadblock occupied by the offending rebels would be destroyed. A few days later, a Memorial Servic~ was held for Sgt. Nettles; and Gen. Adams dedicated a heliport in his honor.

Partial "stick "~how ofiarce Junip-Lebanon '58' US Army P110k) 1/187th .~G-~pcration 'BLUEB,IT"

There were other incidents: at least one where soldiers, presumably from the 187th, were subjected to sporadic machine gun fire at night. They returned fire, but hot \\ith the intent of injuring the opposing force, but rather of warning them by carefully shooting out a light in the rebel position every time it was lit. The shooting stopped; and in the morning a rebel came out and apologized. He said ~ had not intended to shoot at the troopers. Several small aircraft were fired on; and according to some ref)o11s. soldiers in them wounded. At ~ (~IiC ~otdIQ1 was kidiiapped and held hostage for a short while; then releascd unharmed

As time progressed, the Marines started to withdraw from Lebanon; and the Army assumed more responsibility for Beirut proper, as well as the outlying area; and some passes were given to the troops. At the time of the intervention, Beirut was a city with two faces: one a beautiful cosmopolitan city with beautiful buildings on wide boulevards overlooking the Mediterranean; and yet just a few blocks inland, it was a Muslmi city in the throws of a revolution with barricades and caniage scattered about.

On 31 July 1958, General Chehab was elected president of Lebanon; President Chainoun had endorsed his

 

 

 

 

22-- '[lie Airbonie Qii~rterIv -- Suminer 98

By inid-August, the Marines had started withdrawal from Lebanon. But that did not mean the shooting had ceased. On 21 Augnst, a French Vice Consul was shot and seriously wounded while traveling from the airport on the Main Supply Route (MSR); a U.S. Army vehicle was hit. by gnn fire as it proceeded along MSR from the airport to Beirut; and late in the afternoon, PFC. Larry Williani>., an unarmed soldier, was wounded in the shoulder by gun fire when he refused a rebel command to proceed toward a rebel road block. On the morning of 22 August, Mr. AflQiO Smith and Mr. Ferguson of the U.S. Embassy were piiiii~d down by machine gun fire in a filling station just outside the Basta area; and another U.S. aircraft was fired upon.

Following these events, three strong points were

r

established in and around Beirut. During the last week of August and into mid-September, the 187th conducted parachute jumps from C-i 30s. Until the Lebanon intervention, these aircraft were not used for jump training in Germany. The site of the DZ, n~ed DZ Sahara, was the sandy area north of the airport just beyond where the first bunkers had been constructed immediately after landing. It was not flat at all, but had a series of undulations that formed a patteni of swales and depressions ofien twenty to thirty feet deep. Had it been necessary to parachute into Lebanon, it would have been the DZ.

September did not get off to a great start and did not get better. On the first, two more U.S. aircraft were hit by small aris fire while in flight. On the twelfth, another U.S. aircraft on patrol north of Tripoli was also hit by small arms fire. And, on the nineteenth, a journalist of the inilitant Christian Phalange Party was kidnapped, tortured and murdered. However, one good thing did take place; on 23 September Gen. Chehab was inaugurated as the President of Lebanon. Regrettably on 24 September, four tank-infantry strong points that had previously been withdrawn; had to be reestablished along minor points throughout Beirut to cope with disorder.

Withdrawal

On 27 September, the United States commenced forinal withdrawal of troops from Lebanon. The withdrawal, which was to be completed by the end of October, was made as a result of an earlier request by President Chehab.

Courinuing the cycle of pseudo-peace followed by tunnoil, October began with a continual build-up of political demonstration and disruptive acts by the Phalangists who were not pleased with the composition of President Chehab's cabinet. Once again Alnerican soldiers found themselves in harms way. Luckily it was not violent, just embarrassing and aggravating when, on 8 October, three soldiers were relieved of their pistols at gun-point by the rebels. Gen. Adams responded by sending a patrol consisting 0 f: l-l/4Ton Truck Command Vehicle, 1-lATon Truck with a 106 miii Rec. Rifle, and 2-l/4Ton Trucks with machine guns; reinforced by a CYCLONE FORCE (Platoon M42s mounting 40 mm, and a platoon of motorized infantry, reinforced with a platoon of M48 Tanks) to the location. There was no opposition.

Within days of the appointinent the President's eight-man Cabinet resigned; and a new four-man Cabinet was sworn in; averting a threatened 15 October 1958 general strike of

the Lebanese United Trade Unions. On 19 October, the 187th began its withdrawal from Lebanon. However, as the withdrawal was taking place one rebel leader approached Gen. Adams and asked him if he could arrange for the troops to stay. The General politely told him no, that it was time for the Lebanese to solve their own problems.

The records call it an intervention, however regardless of how it is classified, some things cannot be overlook~d Sgt. Nettle's life was taken by a snipers bullet;

Williams, while unarmed, was shot in the back; and, there were numerous instances where troops were fired on and subsequently injured---none received a Purple Heart!

During their stay in Lebanon, the troops received support from home in the way of care packages from their friends and families, and Red Cross Chapters. Also, the USO p on a couple of shows. And of course some were able to find other pleasures, which one can only iniagine.

Aftermath and "Black and Red" Tab

Shortly after the 1 87th's return to Gablingen, a number of its troopers found themselves being transferred again --some went home with the 187th to join the 82nd Airborne Division because their tours were up; others ended up in leg units in the 24th Infantry Division. Regardless of wher they went, they have all remained Rakkasans and Angeis in spirit. Until recently, they were the only ones to wear a black and red Airborne tab.

The Army Institute of Heraldry states the Brigade never existed and the tab was never authorized. lt did exist! It is specifically mentioned in the official after action reports, and photos in the National Archives can attest to the wearing of the tab from the CG, Gen Gray, down through the ranks. It is possible that, considering the brief period of existence that it was a provisional brigade, but no one ever described it as such in USAREUR!

 

Hey! Isn't that the way it always is? Every time something like the 24th

Abn Bde is put together, some

bureaucrat wants to pretend it

didn't happen. I wonder what unit they listed as Sgt. Nettles belonging to when they recorded his death---and, did they list him as K.1.A.?

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Sumnier 98-- 1~he Airborne Quarterly --23

Observation and comments

Roger J Spiller described it as "Not War, But Like War" in Leavenworili Papers No.3, Combat Studies Institute.

Admiral Holloway, CINCSPECOMME, in his Command Report on Operation Blue Bat [sic] 15 July - 25 October 1958 to Joint Chiefs of Staff: "The rapid and dramatic deployment of U.S. armed forces into Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese goverument was an effective demonstration of military power which caused the internal factions as well as the UAR to pause and consider. Aitliough neither the internal nor external forces threatening the independence of Lebanon were directly engaged by this command, our forces were maintained in combat posture and constantly demonstrated their readiness to meet any foreseeable contingency. The U.S. military power in Lebanon was applied in the most retrained manner and did not result in death, wounds, or serious property damage to any Lebanese or foreign faction in Lebanon. This coupled with exemplary military bearing, competence and discipline which were exhibited by our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in the accomplishment of their tasks, materially helped produce an atruosphere which made possible the legal election of a president on 31 July and his inauguration 6n 23 September to succeed the outgoing president. The shield of U.S. military power acted as a deterrent to excessive internal violence and to the direat from external forces

Ambassador Robert McClintock, The American Landing in Lebanon, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, October 1962, "Although no guns were fired in anger and no casualties inflicted on the indigenous population, this was, in fact, an exercise in limited war." Further, in the same publication, he wrote, "... in fact, in the entire history of Phoenicia, which goes back some five thousand years, no foreign invading army had ever come by invitation of the inhabitants, or left voluntarily without causing casualties to the inhabitants."

A great deal of the infonnation in this article came from documents at the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Other parts were shared by CSM William Brushwood, USA-Ret, and Richard Becker, both of whom participated in Operation BLUEBAT.

LA WRLWCF J. LENAHAN

(Ed. Poatnote: IVell, there you ha"e it! Perhaps, in today's environment the Lebanon intervenuon may seem tame. But, remember, the free ~'orkl had just recovered from the bloodiness of Korea; we were paranoid about Soviet attempts to destabilize the Atiddle East; the Cold JVar was getting "hot"; and, R~'\1T was the furthest thought from anyone '5 mind And yet, we went out on a limb to AL' 'ep peace. n airborne brigade in USAREUR made the risk worth

 

 

 

 

 

24-- The Airbonie Quarterly -- Summer 98

taking. And, "airborne wrote another proi&l chapter in our histo,3'. Today, they'd authorize a "streamer "for the colors, but not then!)

World War U' ~ Tud~y

 

 

 

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