Son remembered 30 years after Beirut Barracks Bombing | Families
It has been nearly 30 years since two suicide bombers detonated truck bombs in an attack on separate buildings housing United States and French military forces in Lebanon, killing 299 American and French servicemen and six civilians. A local family is remembering their son and brother, John Allman, who was one of the 220 Marines killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombings on October 23, 1983.
In addition to the Marines, 18 Navy personnel and three Army soldiers were also killed when the bombs went off near the four-story concrete building they were staying. A nearly simultaneous explosion nearby killed 58 French soldiers.
Allman, who was just a month shy of his 20th birthday, had been promoted to Lance Corporal just prior to his death. He was living in Carlsbad, New Mexico with his father when he enlisted in the Marines. Four other siblings lived in Clarkston with their mother at the time.
Anne Allman says her son had always wanted to be a Marine, and his grandfather and his father were Marines. "His grandfather was in the second World War. His father was on call if Korean broke out," she says, adding that John was very loving and had a lot of plans for the future. He "was into drafting and had a house designed for me to build," she says, adding that he was a big brother to his sisters and his brother. "He helped me to raise them and always kept what they were up to."
Even after all these years, losing her son still feels unreal. "Sometimes I almost can feel him come in and say it's all a mistake," Anne says. "John and the others were peacekeepers...it of course went wrong and I have always felt the government has a lot of covering up. They were not allowed to put bullets in their guns," Allman says, adding that until 9/11, "this was the biggest bombing on American soil." She asks that we remember all who were there. "There is a lot of sons fathers and husbands that deserve to be remembered."
Allman's sister, Maggie Gilbert, was 13-years-old when her brother was killed. She remembers him as a typical big brother. "He always wanted to be a Marine from the time we were little. He built a course in our backyard and we had to do "boot camp" when we were kids. He was always the drill seargent of course and we had to call him general."
After the bombings, Gilbert says it was a huge waiting game for all of the family. "I remember not even going to school and my mother never turning the channel from CNN the whole time," she says. But a case of misinformation devastated them. "We got news that he was alive and we were very relieved. Then the next day we found out that he was dead and that someone had made a mistake and we were just devastated."
Gilbert says whenever she sees something about a bombing on television, she feels the same pain all over again. "The Boston bombings were terrible. I felt so much for all the families because I knew their pain," she says.
Gilbert shared letters that her brother had sent to their mother. In one dated September 19, 1983, he said he couldn't wait to get out of Beirut. "We do the same thing every day, it gets pretty boring. Some people at night go off behind the trees and shout out all their feelings to keep from going crazy. Thank God we've only got less than a month left," Allman wrote.
In a letter dated just four days before the bombings, Allman told his mom that he expected to have military leave on December 16th and if he was allowed 20 days, he hoped to be home by December 23rd. He also mentioned the loss of a fellow Marine. "Another Marine was killed a few days ago, he was shot in the chest by a sniper. We finally made it up to condition 3 today. But I wonder how long that will last."
Allman's other sisters, Tammi Thomas, Susan Terlson, and Debbie Graves, all continue to live in the Lewis-Clark Valley. Thomas and her husband will be attending the memorial service this year, while sadly their mother is unable to travel to North Carolina. "I can't go as I had a slight stoke and can't travel. I wanted to hear all about John and his friends," she says.
Gilbert says in honor of her brother, there are two Adopt-a-Highway locations along US 12 east of Lewiston. They are located at mileposts 15 and 17. She says Allman's name, along with their dad's, has also been added to the Hometown Heroes Memorial in Clarkston.
Gilbert says of the things she really wishes she could do is take her mother to where all three of her brothers and a sister are buried in New Mexico. "She has never even seen the headstones except in pictures. That's something we are saving up to do," she says.
Meanwhile, in order to raise public awareness about the Beirut Barracks Bombings, Marine Sgt. Doc Doolittle (Jan 1981-June 1991) is doing "A Walk to Remember" in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He is walking 273 miles in and around Jacksonville. Doolittle started on October 1st and will end on October 23rd at the Beirut Memorial, which is located outside the gate of Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, a satellite camp of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
For those of you who wish to join "A Walk to Remember" from your hometown, visit Facebook and start keeping track of your mileage.