The Root by Eric Hammel
The Marines in Beirut

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The Root
The Marines in Beirut
August 1982-–February 1984

Eric Hammel

Facing northward out of a second-deck window, the lance corporal was hurled through the window and out into mid- air. He fell thirty feet to the ground and landed on his feet. He was not harmed until falling debris struck him on the head and shoulders. Nearly every other member of the recon platoon in his compartment was killed in the inferno.

At 6:22 A.M. on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes truck raced across the parking lot of the Beirut International Airport in Lebanon. Crashing through a chain-link gate into the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit’s headquarters compound, it raced on careening through a shack and into the open atrium lobby of a terminal building where the men were housed, many still asleep.

The truck lurched to a stop. Seconds later, 12,000 pounds of high explosives piled in the bed of the truck exploded. The four-story steel and concrete building shuddered, then collapsed. Two hundred forty-one Americans were killed and many more were injured in the disaster.

Soon after the 24th MAU returned to the United States in November 1983, the Marine Corps granted Eric Hammel an unprecedented opportunity to interview survivors of the bombing and those who came to their rescue. The Root is the result of these interviews. It is a narrative account of the Marines’ mission in Lebanon, describing their escalating involvement in the largely unreported battles fought in and around the shattered city of Beirut. And it presents in detail the terrorist attack on the unit headquarters.

The focus of The Root is on the nearly 200 people interviewed by the author—enlisted men and officers—for whom the shock and horror at the bombing were still fresh. Their reactions to the danger, what they survived and how they survived it, their concerns and insights, make The Root a timeless chronicle of the human spirit—and as timely as today’s headlines.

Praise for The Root

“Illustrates Washington’s exceptional resistance to accepting the facts that contradict its preconceived views. . . . It’s time that we learn from our mistakes and never again put our people in situations we do not understand. A first step is to read how our effort in Beirut turned from a noble cause into having our troops pinned down in an escalating civil war we did not understand.” —Colonel Thomas X Hammes, USMC (Ret.), author of The Sling and the Stone

It’s a fine book . . . a fascinating record of the life of a military unit . . . “ —New York Times

“Hammel has grippingly reconstructed a story that was often obscured as it unfolded.” —Los Angeles Times

“Hammel’s detailed account of individual rescue efforts is intensely graphic. . . . It is first-hand and realistic. It is not sensationalized or trivialized.” —New York Tribune

“Eric Hammel’s well-written book . . . strikes a deep emotional chord . . .” —Naval Institute Proceedings

“(The Root is) a book about the violence of combat, a first-hand account of death and danger, fear, pain and survival. . . . ” —Baltimore Sun

“A disturbingly accurate portrait…well-researched (and) well-crafted. . . .” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a moving book which tells a story that needs to be told.” —San Diego Union

About Eric Hammel

See more books from this Author
Eric Hammel is a critically acclaimed military historian and author of more than thirty combat and pictorial histories, including several on U.S. Marine operations in World War II and Vietnam, such as Pacific Warriors: The U.S. Marines in World War II, Iwo Jima: Portrait of a Battle, and Marines in Hue City: A Portrait of Urban Combat, Tet 1968. He lives in Northern California.
Published June 23, 2009 by Pacifica Military History. 380 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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