When Reagan Sent in the Marines: The Invasion of Lebanon

Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2019. 240p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250113917. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250113924. HIST
The devastating explosion of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983, resulted in the deaths of 241 American soldiers. Here, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Sloyan, who died in early 2019, crafts a smartly written account of America’s military involvement in Lebanon in the early 1980s after Israel invaded the country in June 1982. President Ronald Reagan sent American troops to help secure the area, but the barracks in which they were housed were not well secured; the main entrance was protected by barbed wire, not hard barriers. The bombers used trucks to drive into the compound where they set off 21,000 pounds of TNT, leveling the area. Sloyan details the decision-making by American government officials that led to military engagement in Lebanon, along with the divisions among the administration’s leading figures as to how to respond to the attack.
VERDICT Complementary to Benis Frank’s thoroughly researched U.S. Marines in Lebanon, 1982–1984 and John Laffin’s The War of Desperation: Lebanon 1982–1984, this smoothly written assessment of a modern American military disaster will be a worthwhile addition to most history collections.

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