Journal Entries from the Battlefield
Editor’s note: The name
“The Marines in
Christmas 1983 was just a few weeks away. I would travel to
•If there is hell on earth, it is here in
•In the eyes of the young Marines, I can see the uneasy and uncomfortable situation they are in. The U.S. Marines’ position at the
•At night there is no time to dream; the evenings are fitful with the sounds of rifle fire. My bed is level with the window. Crazy, I thought, there are snipers on the roofs – one shot through the window and that’s it. I tried to sleep on the floor, but there is no sleep at night. The sounds of sniper fire and the thud of muffled mortar and artillery rounds are trying to find any “peace-keeper’s” position near the Avenue de Paris, the long, winding road facing the
•At one time
•There is no sanctuary in this city. It’s a sad place and a sad time.
Blackened pockmarks of war are carved into the façade of every building. The city is gravely wounded. And now a new threat is employed by the terrorists: They are kidnapping journalists and teachers at the
•The war is escalating now. (A few months later, the Commodore Hotel would be completely destroyed by shelling and car bombs.) The American Embassy was heavily damaged by another car-bomb attack. Forty people were injured, and eight were killed in the suicide attack. The front of the embassy building, facing the seashore, is covered in what appears to be a seven-story green shroud. It hides the embassy’s exposed interior from probing eyes or people that pass through the zigzagged row of 55-gallon metal drums filled with dirt. The metal drums are defenses against another suicide attack. Marines are positioned throughout the building. Another contingent of Marines is stationed just across the street from the embassy. An American flag blew quietly in the wind next to a Marine guard watching the pedestrian movement in front of the embassy. The image of the American flag and the Marine standing with the sun setting on the
•On the corniche, in front of the American Embassy, the Marines are routinely targeted by snipers. It becomes very nerve-racking that at any time death may come by a sniper. As I filmed the area I noticed a small bunker with several Marines standing guard. One of them was Cpl. Brad Pellegrin from
We were carrying messages from Cpl. Pellegrin’s family to give to him. It was a videotaped message to him from his wife, mother and child. As we showed the message to him I noticed an interesting effect on the other Marines . . . they gathered closer together to hear the family’s greeting to Brad. Closer the Marines came when Brad’s son said, “Daddy, I love you and miss you.” We played the videotape again and again. That’s when I realized that Brad’s family was now family to all the Marines that gathered to watch his videotape in front of the destroyed American Embassy. His family was their family; his son was their son or daughter. The Marines had a Christmas family now . . . and it was amazing to witness a little bit of loneliness disappear as they looked on. Christmas is family . . . even in
•The makeshift Christmas ornaments lining the bunkers in front of the destroyed
•Overnight, hooded Shiite Muslims and their Druse allies drove Lebanese army units from most of their checkpoints on the Muslim West
•Reports indicate at least 90 people killed last night and more than 300 wounded in the fighting; in just two days more than 160 people were killed, mostly civilians caught in the cross-fire. It’s a sickness – hatred is a cancer destroying everything here.
•At the Marine base this morning I could see the visible impact of the shelling by the
But on the Marine base at the
•The Marine base alarm is sounding. The Druse militias are firing mortars now. In a few seconds, we must make the decision to stay on the Marine base during the shelling and miss our satellite deadline or leave and walk into the chaos and madness of the streets. We decide to leave. A condition-1 alert has been initiated . . . there are incoming mortar rounds in the distance, and the front gate will be locked shortly. The Marine base is the target.
We had to leave quickly. But as I left the Marine base I noticed a small memorial in front of the former Marine barracks. Despite the imminent danger, I couldn’t help but stop, notice and film the small bouquet of light blue flowers ringed around a Marine-issued camouflage hat. Above the flowers was a small, white sign facing east, toward the city of
It’s a dangerous world out there. •