I reported aboard the Chilton one night in June, 1958. I told my mother I would be home that weekend. Little did I know what was soon to transpire. Anyway, I reported aboard around 9 at night.
They gave me a rack in B and M division but said I would have to get out at midnight as the guy whose rack it was would be getting off watch at that time. It was June in Virginia so I just found a spot on deck and hunkered down. The next day we left for the Med.
We got a 1/2 hour liberty in Gibraltar and then headed for Greece. We were due for liberty in Piraeus the next day but during the movie that night the Captain came over the PA and said something about the government in Lebanon and that liberty was cancelled. We were going to land troops in Beirut the next morning. He didn't know if the beach would be hostile or what kind of resistance we would meet. Then the Chaplin came on and said a prayer.
This was it. We were going in maybe under fire. All the brown baggers were then writing home to their wives while us younger guys were talking about what to expect the next day. No one hit the sack that night and we manned the boats around midnight.
This was my first time in one of the Higgins boats although we never called them that. We called them Papa boats. They put another engineer in with me to show me what to do and he made the first run into the beach with me. He showed me things such as how to hook and unhook the boat from the blocks, drop the ramp, clean the sand traps while on the beach and keep an eye on the engine.
As we approached the beach we couldn't see much as it was clouded with smoke or haze though I did see planes fly over the beach. As we got closer I could see people milling around on the beach. The marines were supposed to keep their heads down but they were all looking around like I was.
Anyway, we hit the beach and the marines charge out admist Lebanese selling soda and some kind of foodstuff. I can't remember if I was disappointed or relieved but all feeling soon wore of as I spent the next 20 hours in that boat landing ammo and c rations. We lost two boats that night. One through a collision and the other in the rough surf.
I can't remember if that boat was recovered or not. Also, that was one of only two I think we were there for about 2 weeks and were given liberty.
We could only go on the street along the waterfront (of course that was enough for us). Any street going into the city was cut off by barb wire barricades and were manned by Lebanese soldiers with machine guns. Every now and then we would see them shooting from rooftops.
Once machine gun bullets sprayed the water alongside our ship and the word was passed for all hands to get below. They weren't shooting at us but we were in the line of fire. One guy on a can was shot in the arm one night while watching the movie topside. Out mailman and an officer were captured while going to the airport to pick up our mail.
I never did know whose side (and still don't) we were on. Who were the bad guys? it just goes to show that when you are in the military you do what your told and don't really know what's going.
Anyway, that was over 50 years ago but that's how I remember it.