The bombing: On October 23, 1983, around 6:20 am, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, under the U.S. 2nd Marine Division of the United States Marines, had set up its local headquarters. The truck turned onto an access road leading to the Marines' compound and circled a parking lot. The driver then accelerated and crashed through a barbed wire fence around the parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and barreled into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were operating under Rules of Engagement which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the evolving situation. By the time the two sentries had locked, loaded, and shouldered their weapons, the truck was already inside the building's entry way. The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 12,000 pounds (about 5,400kg) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story cinder-block building into rubble, crushing many inside. About 20 seconds later, an identical attack occurred against the barracks of the French Third Company of the Sixth French Parachute Infantry Regiment. Another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into the building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the headquarters. Death toll Rescue efforts continued for days. While the rescuers were at times hindered by sniper fire, some survivors were pulled from the rubble and airlifted to the RAF hospital in Cyprus or to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany. The death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers. Sixty Americans were injured. In the attack on the French barracks, 58 paratroopers were killed and 15 injured. In addition, the elderly Lebanese custodian of the Marines' building was killed in the first blast. The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building also were killed. This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas. Response President Ronald Reagan called the attack a "despicable act" and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said there would be no change in the U.S.'s Lebanon policy. On October 24 French President François Mitterrand visited the French bomb site. It was not an official visit, and he only stayed for a few hours, but he did declare: "We will stay." U.S. Vice President George Bush toured the Marine bombing site on October 26 and said the U.S. "would not be cowed by terrorists." In retaliation for the attacks, France launched an air strike in the Beqaa Valley against Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions. President Reagan assembled his national security team and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards believed to be training Hezbollah fighters. But Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger aborted the mission, reportedly because of his concerns that it would harm U.S. relations with other Arab nations. Besides a few shellings, there was no serious retaliation for the Beirut bombing from the Americans. In December 1983, U.S. aircraft attacked Syrian targets in Lebanon, but this was in response to Syrian missile attacks on planes, not the barracks bombing. The Marines were moved offshore where they could not be targeted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. This was completed on February 26; the rest of the MNF was withdrawn by April. Aftermath It is uncertain as to who is responsible for the bombing although several radical Shiite militant groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, and one, the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, identified the two suicide bombers as Abu Mazen and Abu Sijaan. Despite the fact that they were not officially an organization until February 1985, many (notably the U.S. government) believe that the Hezbollah, a Lebanese based militant group backed by Iran and Syria, was responsible for this bombing as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have denied any involvement. Many in the U.S. government do not claim Hezbollah is responsible for the Marine barracks attack. For example in 2001 Caspar Weinberger stated: "But we still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn't then." Along with the U.S. Embassy bombing, the barracks bombing prompted the Inman Report, a review of the security of U.S. facilities overseas for the U.S. Department of State. In his book "By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer", Victor Ostrovsky claims that Mossad knew in advance of the attack but did not warn the United States. There have been claims that Israel wanted U.S. and French troops to leave Lebanon so it could freely operate in Lebanon without restriction. In May 2003, in a case brought by the families of the 241 servicemen who were killed, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the 1983 attack. Lamberth concluded that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government, was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and assisted Iranian Ministry of Information and Security agents in carrying out the operation. Among the intelligence information initially uncovered by Thomas Fortune Fay, an attorney for the families of the victims, was a National Security Agency (NSA) intercept of a message sent from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran to Hojjat ol-eslam Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian ambassador in Damascus. As it was paraphrased by presiding U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, "The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact Hussein Musawi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal, and to instruct him ... 'to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines."