Reporting Joel Thomas
DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Kip Gandy left DFW Airport Tuesday night on his way to a reunion of retired U.S. Marines who served in Beirut, Lebanon 30-years ago. He remembered the days leading up to the most bloody, single-day loss of life for the Marine Corps since Iwo Jima in World War II.
“Little by little the situation progressively got worse where we were being shot at on a regular basis, where we were being shelled and mortared,” Gandy said.
On October 23rd, 1983 a suicide bomber attacked the Marine corps barracks in Beirut. By chance, Gandy was not assigned to the post with his friends because he’d learned his wife was pregnant and experiencing some complications so he was assigned a bit safer location a little further away.
“The suicide bomber that attacked the building drove the truck straight into the building and detonated it,” Gandy said.
“The bigger the bomb the bigger the container and in this case it was a one-and-a-half ton dump truck,” said former FBI Special Agent Denny Defenbaugh who was sent to investigate the blast scene and who knew many of the Marines there. ”It was the most devastating thing I’ve ever seen.”
Defenbaugh said the orders given the marines to leave their weapons unloaded left them vulnerable to attack.
“I still have a card that shows the rules of engagement that they were not to lock and load until they knew a vehicle-born explosive device was coming into their compound,” Defenbaugh said.
“241 Marines, Navy and Army personnel died in the bombing,” said Gandy. ”These were the best friends of my life and I lost so many of them.”
One of those killed was Gandy’s best friend. Gandy escorted the body of his fallen buddy back to Cleveland, Ohio.
Defenbaugh said he had to perform his job around the remains of his friends.
“It was very emotional,” Defenbaugh said. “More than tough. You can’t explain it.”
Both men say the barracks attack and its lessons have been lost in time.
“Many of the politics still remain the same,” Defenbaugh said. ”Rules of engagements are changed and the lives and the well-being of that troop on the ground is still not given first consideration.”
“Thirty years later it seems like its not well remembered,” Gandy said. “You don’t see it in the history books. Not many people under the age of 30 or 35 even remember the situation that took place over there.”
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