StoryCorps: A Survivor Remembers The 1983 Beirut Bombing Navy hospital corpsman James Edward Brown wasn't far from U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 that were the target of a terrorist attack. At StoryCorps, Brown remembers what he saw that day.
NPR logo

Survivor Of Deadly 1983 Beirut Bombing: 'We Don't Talk About It Much'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/725852841/726476098" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Survivor Of Deadly 1983 Beirut Bombing: 'We Don't Talk About It Much'

Survivor Of Deadly 1983 Beirut Bombing: 'We Don't Talk About It Much'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/725852841/726476098" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NOEL KING, HOST:

It is time now for StoryCorps. And as we head into the Memorial Day weekend, we're going to hear from James Edward Brown. He's one of the survivors of the Beirut bombing of 1983. Two hundred and forty-one U.S. military personnel were killed in a terror attack on marine barracks in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Brown was 200 yards away from the barracks when a bomb detonated. Quick warning here - this story has graphic language.

JAMES EDWARD BROWN: I was on duty that night. So I had to stay in sick hall. And I woke up to the crash of isopropyl alcohol bottles and a gust of wind coming through the windows. I got up and put my boots on and my flak jacket and ran out of my room and didn't know what to expect. That morning, a truck loaded with 20,000 pounds of TNT wrapped in flammable gas detonated in the entrance of the Marine barracks where 400 Marines were sleeping. There was a four-story building that was now one story tall. The walls had been blown outward. And the ceilings came down on top of each other. And everybody in the basement had been buried in rubble.

I had a little green bag that I carried called a Unit One. It had eight battle dressings, a chicken wire-framed splint. And that was it. And you can't treat very many casualties with that many bandages - not successfully. A Marine saw that I was a corpsman and yelled, hey, doc, come here. Hey, doc. And he had a casualty laying on a stretcher with a chunk out of his forehand where his brain was exposed and a 45-pound piece of concrete on his chest with a - rebar had been impaled into him. I told the Marine that there was nothing I could do and jumped down off the truck and went to help other people.

And you don't forget that. I remember it kind of every day since then. But not many people do remember what happened in 1983. So we kind of feel like we're a little lost. You know, at least I do. It's like we went over there, got beat up, came home. And we don't talk about it very much. And I'm pretty angry about it. It was the largest single loss of life by the Marines since World War II in Iwo Jima. And our 1,800 families from 35 years ago remember it today and every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: James Edward Brown remembering the Beirut bombing in 1983. He talked to his friend and fellow Beirut veteran Mike Cline at StoryCorps in Pensacola, Fla. That interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.