Surfing Beirut with

It was 1959, and I was stationed in Japan working for the Marine Corps C.I.D.(Criminal Investigation Department)as an undercover operative, when an executive order came in asking for a volunteer to help spearhead an assault landing on the beaches of Beirut, along with a couple thousand combat Marines. At the time, I was a very dedicated, highly trained Marine, having graduated from the F.B.I Academy and survived two atomic bomb tests in the deserts of Nevada, as well as cold weather training at Bishop. Up to that point, I had volunteered for every dangerous assignment that came up. They had me thinking I was invincible. The Marine Corps had a way of doing that to you. This was to be no different. I volunteered to be the supreme point liaison along with a Colonel. We were to be the first Marines to land on the beach at Beirut, Lebanon.

Our Mission was to proceed to the abandoned Beirut Hilton Hotel, make our way to the roof and set up communication with the US Fleet of ships that were laying directly off the coast, waiting for our orders to begin the assault. We would direct the landing of the other Marines and direct fire for all the planes that would assist and protect them from the terrorist rebels that had devastated Beirut. Our Mission was to liberate the city and bring order and stability to the citizens living there.

We were sent to the island of Iwo Jima to prepare for our mission. It was there that I learned what it felt like to drive a jeep off of a landing craft into the shallow ocean near a shoreline. The jeep had a fording gear that extended up from the engine exhaust, somewhat like a snorkel, so the engine would not stop running for lack of air-intake if the jeep submerged during the landing. Ten times, we practiced without a fault. We were ready

Our ship departed Iwo Jima and arrived just off shore of Beirut with eight other troop carriers holding a few thousand combat Marines. It had been determined earlier that no softening up of the enemy with a barrage of 12 inch guns would be utilized, as we didn't want to level the city of Beirut, just liberate it. Of Course, that presented a larger element of danger to whoever treads first upon their soil. In this case, one Colonel and one over- confident, bone-headed, but highly qualified Marine – me.

While our ship was on its way to Lebanon, the Colonel and I studied maps of Beirut each day and planned our mission to a fair the well. I knew I could find the Beirut Hilton blindfolded if I had to, no matter what part of the very long beach we landed on… I was ready.

The night before we landed, we lay off the coast and could see the lights of Beirut twinkling in the distance. The Commander of our ship called us all into a boardroom and talked of how we would be helping so many innocent and tortured people. How proud we should feel to help liberate these tortured souls. He would certainly site us all for bravery and that we would be recognized as hero's. He then led us in prayer.

A prayer acknowledging that a lot of us would not return. Many others were expected to be wounded and maimed. He asked the good lord to protect us. I am not a religious person, but I bowed my head just like everyone else....I had no fear at that time in my life and was very confident I would complete my mission without fail. Helping to liberate those poor starving people was very important to me… I was ready. Early the next morning, I ate a huge breakfast, not knowing when I would be able to eat again, and prepared my jeep that was already aboard the landing craft at the stern of the ship. I went over everything I was supposed to do in my mind. I was prepared for plan "B" if necessary. I double-checked my weapons and ammunition…check...check. I sharpened my already sharpened bayonet. I tucked two candy bars in a hidden pocket of my jacket and filled an extra canteen with water. I also secured an extra medical kit onto my cartridge belt just in case I had to help someone....I was ready.

The landing craft departed the mother ship at daybreak. It was one of those serenely beautiful mornings with the sun just now peeking over the horizon, so peaceful and calm. We had expected terrorist shells to be exploding all around us as we made our way to the beach.….None came….The silence was terrifying, as expectation filled our conscience with the unknown. The quiet persisted as we continued towards the beach. The beach that faces the main part of the city...The order was given to prepare for landing. I started my jeep and warmed it at idle. Then, just as a pilot does his preflight inspection, I did my own, devised from other missions on Okinawa and Yakuza lorded villages in Japan. I loaded a live round in the chamber of my semi-automatic weapon. The Colonel did the same. We shook hands and wished each other well. I peered over the top of the landing craft towards the city. No guns were blazing. No rockets streaking towards us. No water geysering up from bullet hits. Not a creature was stirring. All was peaceful and quiet. Too quiet. Eerily quiet. Oh, but we knew - we knew they were waiting for us at close range. We knew all hell would break loose the minute I drove that jeep onto the beach. …..Was the beach mined? …Were the terrorists that confident?…Why?…No matter, I was ready.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the landing craft stopped not far from shore and began lowering the front-end loading platform so that I could drive the jeep off into the water and begin our mission.

We had mapped the shoreline and knew exactly where it was shallow enough to drive the jeep through the water onto the beach. The water should have been waist high, with the waterline maybe just over the hood of the jeep….The jeep was ready. Fording gear was in place….I was ready.

The signal was given and I drove that jeep right straight down the ramp into the water. Straight in…The jeep wavered for a brief moment before submerging into an uncharted hole in the sandy bottom.

Down we went ! Straight down into a ten-foot hole. The fording gear was not high enough. Water poured into the exhaust pipe stalling the engine. The jeep hit bottom with both of us tying to salvage something before we swam to the surface. We had no plan for this. We had placed our faith that all reports were accurate. That hole should not have been there…We weren't prepared.

We began swimming towards shore - still determined, still dedicated. I had pulled a radio pack out of the jeep and strapped it on before I surfaced. The weight of it was almost too much, but I gathered extra strength from the adrenalin that was pumping through my veins. I would not abandon that radio. I kept telling myself that as I swam to the shore. Say that 1000 times…I will not abandon this radio…I will not……Damn thing weighed 100 pounds, counting the two extra batteries, but I made it. Thank god swimming was my favorite sport at JBHS.

Suddenly, as we were crawling on our bellies through the sand towards the boardwalk, a throng of women came out of nowhere. Must have been a dozen or more, with small crates strapped around their necks, much like a beer hawker at a baseball park. We just laid there on the beach with our weapons trained on them. It was a little confusing as we had expected to be crawling through a hail of bullets, not of a group of women, all yelling out very loudly............."Coca Cola !...Coca Cola !" ...These women wanted to sell us a soft drink!!!

At first, we looked at them incredulously, thinking this may be some diabolical plot to direct our attention away from our mission. Soon, we began laughing. It was simply astonishing! Instead of a fury of bullets slowing our path, we were confronted by a bevy of poor Lebanese women trying to cash in on the United States invasion of Beirut. Not a terrorist in sight!

The Colonel and I pooled our money and bought every drink they had and asked them to welcome the other Marines as they reached the shore with a cold coke.

We had them point out the Beirut Hilton, and one of them led the way while others helped carry my radio equipment. We set up our command post on the roof of the Lebanon Hilton hotel and directed a very peaceful landing for the combat Marines.

The event hit every newspaper and radio station all over the world.. The Marines had landed in Beirut and liberated the city!!!..Hahahaha ..I received a distinguished medal for my bravery......Hahahahaha.....

End of story...This is a true story. Wish all of my stories were less life threatening and funny...Unfortunately, they were not.