Jennifer Martinez has a post remembering Flight 847 - the anniversary was the 14th of June. The flight, flying from Athens to Rome, was hijacked by Hezbollah thugs and redirected to Beriut. The Islamic jihadis searched the plane for Jewish passengers and US military servicemen. They found five US Navy Divers and one Army Reserve Major. All military men were savagely beaten and tortured.
One diver, Robert D. Stethem was chosen to be executed. The Hezbollah chief put his pistol up against the diver's temple, fired one bullet and dumped Stethem's body on the tarmac.
Stethem was murdered because he was an American Sailor. His memory lives on as the Navy Commissioned the USS Stethem - one of the most formidable ships in the world.
The Army Reserve Major's name was Kurt Carlson. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Lieutenant Colonel Carlson. I was performing a surprise training inspection of Carlson's Engineer Battalion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Turns out, Carlson was one of the best Battalion Commanders - active or reserves - that I have ever evaluated. When I reported at Oh-Dark-Thirty to find the commander and inform him of the surprise inspection, he wasn't in his office. He was out in the motor pool in January (in Wisconsin) turning wrenches with one of his Company Commanders during PMCS (a time period set aside to perform routine maintenance on vehicles and equipment). His troops took good care of him, too - that's the primary indication of a fine Officer.
IN THE PARTY OF GOD
by JEFFREY GOLDBERG - The New Yorker (October 28, 2002)
In 1985, two of Mugniyah's men hijacked a T.W.A. airplane, a Boeing 727, on a scheduled run between Athens and Rome. Almost immediately after seizing control, the hijackers, Hassan Izz-al-Din and Muhammad Ali Hamadi, began searching the plane for American servicemen. They soon discovered a group of Navy divers and a thirty-eight-year-old Army Reserve major named Kurt Carlson.
The hijackers were demanding the release of Shiite prisoners in Kuwait and more than seven hundred Shiite prisoners in Israel. Their behavior was erratic; they forced the plane to land in Beirut, then go to Algiers, and then fly back to Beirut. In Beirut, Izz-al-Din and Hamadi executed one of the divers, Robert Stethem, and dumped his body on the airport tarmac.
Carlson today lives in Rockford, Illinois; he is a builder, a friendly, small-boned man, who talks easily about his experience. On the tarmac in Algiers, Carlson said, Hamadi would preach the virtues of the Shiite revolution in Iran from the cockpit window to whoever happened to be listening below. "Every time Hamadi said the name Khomeini, Izz-al-Din would kick me in the back," Carlson said. Carlson was beaten steadily for several days, and his beatings intensified when the hijackers' demands for fuel weren't met. "They kept yelling, 'One American must die, one American must die,' " he said.
At one point, Carlson was dragged into the cockpit. "All of a sudden, I felt a blow, and I heard the captain yelling, 'They're beating and killing Americans! I need fuel!' Meanwhile, Hamadi was screaming in Arabic. He was hitting me with a steel pipe. When he got tired of hitting me with a pipe, he would drop-kick me two or three times. I wasn't making any sound, but I realized that the captain had kept the mike open, and that he wanted me to make sounds, to convince the tower to get us fuel. So I started grunting."
After the plane flew to Beirut the second time, American intelligence officials believe, Mugniyah boarded it; his fingerprints were reportedly identified in one of the bathrooms. American hostages were taken from the plane and dispersed around Beirut. Carlson, along with four of the surviving Navy divers, was put in the custody of the Shiite Amal militia, a less extreme radical group. The hostages were held in a basement, where they were subjected to mock executions and were fed intermittently.
"One day, we were told we had to speak to a visitor from Hezbollah," Carlson recalled. "They took us into another room. There was a bunch of guys there. One was a short guy with a beard. He just looked at us. The Amal guys who were our guards kept close to us. I felt like they were trying to protect us. This guy started asking us questions. Where we're from, what unit. All of a sudden, he let loose with a tirade. He spoke some English. I remember that his eyes were like glass. You could feel the hate coming out of him. He started screaming about the Israelis, how they're supported by the U.S. The Israelis were so bad they wouldn't consent to Red Cross visits to the Shiite prisoners. He was just screaming.
"One of the divers, Stuart Dahl, answered him," Carlson went on. "He said, 'If you believe in the rights of prisoners, you'll let the Red Cross see us.' This guy, the one who was screaming, just about fell over. He didn't expect anyone to answer him. They started talking among themselves, the Hezbollah guys. Now, there was the guy just behind the one who was screaming. I hadn't noticed him before. All of the Hezbollah guys turned to him. They spoke, and then he led them out of the room. I believe that that man was Imad Mugniyah." After seventeen days, Carlson and the remaining four Americans were freed.
If anyone knows of Stuart Dahl's whereabouts, please send me an email. I'd like to buy that Sailor a bottle of scotch.
[tombstone photo by Ron Williams]
[read about other heroes that you should know - here!]
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