Middle East Conflicts

Lebanon

The 1958 Lebanon crisis was a Lebanese political crisis caused by political and religious tensions in the country that included a U.S. military intervention. The intervention lasted around three months until President Camille Chamoun, who had requested the assistance, completed his term as president of Lebanon.

The President of the United States, Eisenhower responded by authorizing Operation Blue Bat on July 15th, 1958. The goal was to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt. The plan was to occupy and secure the Beirut International Airport.

The chain of command for Operation Blue Bat was as follows: the Eisenhower administration at the strategic level; Specified Command, Middle East (SPECCOMME), a ‘double-hat’ for Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM) at the operational level; the Sixth Fleet, with aircraft carriers Saratoga, Essex, and Wasp, cruisers Des Moines and USS Boston, and two squadrons of destroyers. At the end of June Essex and Boston were anchored at Piraeus, Greece, while Des Moines, from which Vice Admiral Charles R. Brown was flying his flag, was at Villefranche-sur-Mer. Land forces included the 2nd Provisional Marine Force (Task Force 62) and the Army Task Force 201 at the tactical level.  Each of these three components influenced Operations Plan 215-58 and its execution.

The operation involved approximately 14,000 men, including 8,509 United States Army personnel, a contingent from the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 187th Infantry from the 24th Infantry Division (based in West Germany) and 5,670 officers and men of the United States Marine Corps (the 2nd Provisional Marine Force, of Battalion Landing Teams 1/8 and 2/2). The Second Battalion 8th Marines arrived on July 16th after a 54-hour airlift from Cherry Point, North Carolina.  They were supported by a fleet of 70 ships and 40,000 sailors. On July 16th, 1958, Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr. (CINCNELM) and Commander in Chief (CINC) SPECCOMME), flew in from London to Beirut airport and boarded USS Taconic (AGC-17), from which he commanded the remainder of the operation.  American and Lebanese government forces successfully occupied the port and international airport of Beirut.  With the crisis over, the U.S. withdrew its forces on October 25th, 1958.

Beirut

The Siege of Beirut took place in the summer of 1982, as part of the 1982 Lebanon War, which resulted from the breakdown of the cease-fire effected by the United Nations. The siege ended with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) being forced out of Beirut and Lebanon.

The Israeli forces invaded in a three-pronged attack. One group moved along the coastal road to Beirut, another aimed at cutting the main Beirut-Damascus road, and the third moved up along the Lebanon-Syria border.  Israel had gained air superiority by June 11th after shooting down several Syrian aircraft.  Syria requested a cease-fire, and most PLO guerrillas fled.

Israel’s goal, a siege with a ring around Beirut, was a quick and decisive victory June 13th, 1982.  PLO and part of Syrian forces were isolated in the city.  The United States was pushing for peace negotiations and the longer the siege took, the less chance for a positive outcome. For seven weeks, Israel attacked Beirut by sea, air, and land, cutting off food and water supplies, disconnecting the electricity, securing the airport and some southern suburbs.  On July 14th, Prime Minister Menachem Begin asked for a large-scale operation to conquer West Beirut to evict the PLO.  The plan was rejected on July 16th, by full Israeli cabinet, out of concern for heavy loss of life.

On August 10th, American envoy Philip Habib submitted a draft agreement to Israel.  Defense minister Ariel Sharon ordered a saturation bombing of Beirut, where at least 300 people died.  That bombing brought about condemnation from President Ronald Reagan. In response, on August 12th, the Israeli cabinet stripped Sharon of most of his powers; he was not allowed to order the use of any military action without agreement of cabinet or prime-minister.

During the siege, the Israelis secured several key locations in other parts of Lebanon, but did not manage to take the city before a peace agreement was finally implemented. Although Syria had agreed on August 7th, Israel, Lebanon, and the PLO finally agreed, with US mediation, on the 18th. On August 21st, 350 French paratroopers arrived in Beirut, followed by 800 US Marines and Italian Bersaglieri plus additional international peacekeepers (totally 2,130) to supervise the removal of the PLO, first by ship and then overland, to Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria. Altogether 8500 PLO men were evacuated to Tunisia, and 2500 by land to other Arab countries.

         Libya

After years of occasional skirmishes with Libya over territorial claims, the United States contemplated military intervention on the Libyan mainland. In March 1986, the United States, asserting the 12-nautical-mile limit per international law, sent a carrier task force to the region. Libya aggressive counter-maneuvers led to the Gulf of Sidra incident on March 24th.

On April 5th, 1986, Libyan agents bombed “La Belle” nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one being a U.S. Serviceman, and injuring 229 people. West Germany and the United States obtained cable transcripts from Libyan agents in East Germany confirming the perpetrators were Libyan.  On Tuesday, April 15, 1986 the United States initiated the bombing of Libya, code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon, due to the nightclub bombing, the bombing of a Berlin discotheque killing 40 Libyan civilians, and the shooting down of one U.S. plane resulting in death of two airmen.  Warfare Aircraft from aircraft carriers USS Saratoga, USS America and USS Coral Sea on station in the Gulf of Sidra, The attack began at 0200 hours (Libyan time), and lasted about twelve minutes, with 60 tons of munitions dropped striking five targets with the stated objectives of sending a message and reducing Libya’s ability to support and train terrorists. President Reagan warned that “if necessary, [they] shall do it again.”

Eighteen F-111 bombers supported by four EF-111 electronic countermeasures aircraft flying from the United Kingdom bombed Tripoli airfield, a frogman training center at a naval academy, and the Bab al-Azizia barracks in Tripoli.  During the bombing of the Bab al-Azizia barracks, an American F-111 was shot down by a Libyan surface-to-air missile over the Gulf of Sidra. Twenty-Four A-6 Intruders and F/A-18 Hornets launched from aircraft carriers bombed radar and antiaircraft sites in Benghazi before bombing the Benina and Jamahiriya barracks

Elements of the then-secret 4450th Tactical Group (USAF) were put on standby to fly the strike mission against Libya with over 30 F-117s already delivered to Tactical Air Command (USAF).  The Secretary of Defense scrubbed the stealth mission, fearing exposure of the secret aircraft.  The air strike was carried out with conventional US Navy and US Air Force aircraft.  The F-117 would remain completely unknown to the world for several more months, before being unveiled in 1988 and featured prominently in media coverage of Operation Desert Storm.

Somalia

The Unified Task Force (UNITAF) was a US-led, United Nations-sanctioned multinational force and operated in Somalia between December 5th, 1992 and May 4th, 1993. A United States initiative (code-named Operation Restore Hope), UNITAF was charged with carrying out the December 3rd, 1992 adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 to create an environment to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid in the country.  President George H. W. Bush initiated Operation Restore Hope on December 4th, 1992, and the United States would assume command.

The operation began on December 6th, 1992, when U.S. Navy SEALs and Special Boat crewmen from Naval Special Warfare Task Unit TRIPOLI began conducting 3 days of reconnaissance operations in the vicinity of the airport and harbor.  On December 8th, 1992 elements of the Army’s 4th Psychological Operation Group (Airborne) attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted leaflet drops over Mogadishu.  On December 9, the MEU entered Mogadishu from USS Tripoli (LPH-10), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and USS Rushmore (LSD-47).

The MEU’s ground combat element, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines (2/9), performed simultaneous raids on the Port of Mogadishu and the airport, establishing a foothold for additional incoming troops. Echo and Golf Company assaulted the airport by helicopter and Amphibious Assault Vehicles, while Fox Company secured the port with a rubber boat raid. The 1st Marine Division’s Air Contingency Battalion (ACB) and the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, (1/7) arrived soon after the airport was secured.  The 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines (3/9) and the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7) went on to secure the airport in Baidoa and the city of Bardera while Golf Company the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines (2/9) and elements of the Belgian Special Forces conducted an amphibious landing at the city of Kismayo. Air support was provided by the combined helicopter units of HMLA-267, HMH-363, HMH-466, HMM-164 and HC-11 DET 10.

United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali determined that the presence of UNITAF troops had a “positive impact on the security situation in Somalia and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

One day prior to the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 814, which marked the transfer of power from UNITAF to UNOSOM II, a United Nations led force. On May 3rd, 1993, UNOSOM II officially assumed command, and on May 4th, 1993, it assumed responsibility for the operations

Kosovo

On  June 9th 1998, President Bill Clinton declared a “national emergency” due to the “unusual threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” imposed by Yugoslavia and Serbia over the Kosovo War.

On September 23rd, 1998 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1199, the peace plan for NATO’s occupation of Kosovo. On October 15th, the NATO agreement was signed and withdrawal deadline was October 27th.  The Serbian withdrawal commenced on October 25th and Operation Eagle Eye commenced on October 30th, 1998.

The January to March 1999 phase brought increasing insecurity.  March 23rd, 1999, the peace talks failed and  NATO began military action.  On March 24th UTC NATO started bombing Yugoslavia.  NATO’s bombing lasted from March 24th to June 11th, 1999.

In April, President Bill Clinton authorized CIA operations to destabilize the Yugoslav government.  Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević accepted conditions offered by Finnish–Russian mediation and allowed NATO troops within Kosovo.  On June 3rd, 1999, he accepted an international peace plan to end fighting.  The North Atlantic Council ratified the agreement June 10th.  On June 12th, Milošević accepted the conditions for a NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) entering Kosovo.

The U.S. Initial Entry Force, was led by the 1st Armored Division and spearheaded by British Forces. Units included 1st and 2nd Battalions, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne); TF 1–6 (1-6 infantry with C Co 1-35AR) Infantry with C Co 1-35AR), the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment.  Although no further resistance was met, three U.S. soldiers from the Initial Entry Force died in accidents.

On October 1st, 1999, Alpha Company, 1/508th Airborne Battalion Combat Army Ranger Sgt. Jason Neil Pringle, was killed after his parachute failed to deploy. The 1/508th joined the 82nd Airborne in patrolling various areas of Kosovo, through October 3rd, 1999.

On December 15th, 1999, Staff Sergeant Joseph Suponcic of 3rd Battalion/10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was killed when the HUM-V he was in struck an anti-tank mine planted by Albanians and meant for the Russian contingent with which SSG Suponcic’s team was patrolling.

The initial U.S. forces established their area around the towns of Uroševac, the future Camp Bondsteel, and Gnjilane, at Camp Monteith, and spent four months—the start of a stay which continues to date—establishing order in the southeast sector of Kosovo.

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