DEVILS LAKE Thirty years ago, Marine Lance Cpl. Todd A. Kraft, of Devils Lake, and seven other Marines lost their lives when a mortor scored a direct hit on their sandbag bunker at the Beirut airport in Lebanon.
A few weeks earlier, 241 U.S. military members, most of them Marines, were killed early on the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, when a terrorist truck bomb exploded inside the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, destroying the barracks. The barracks bombing represented the deadliest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Todd’s brother, Randy Kraft, said the incident at the airport was a few weeks later than the barracks bombing but both incidents were connected as they were determined to be acts of terrorism.
This week, Todd’s brothers, Randy, of Devils Lake, Terry and Danny, both of Fargo, and Steven, of Crookston, Minn.; and Todd’s three nephews Steven’s son Mike, of Finlayson, Minn., and Mitch, of Wahpeton; and Randy’s son, Todd, of Devils Lake, will be going to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville, N.C.
There they will be attending 30th anniversary remembrance events, including a special ceremony, with other family members of those who died in Beirut. More than 700 people are expected to attend a banquet planned during the events this week, Randy Kraft said.
Ray and Christine Kraft, of Devils Lake, Todd’s parents, are unable to attend.
Randy Kraft said this is the first time they have attended such an event, and are looking forward to meeting and getting to know other family members.
To honor the memory of Todd Kraft and other military members who lost their lives in Beirut, former Marine Sgt. Doc Doolittle has been on A Walk to Remember in North Carolina since early October. He plans to end his 273-mile walk at the Beirut Memorial at Jacksonville.
Randy Kraft said he hopes while they are in the Jacksonville area they can meet with Doolittle. Doolittle served from January 1981-June 1991.
According to information for a memorial scholarship set up in Todd Kraft’s name, he grew up at Devils Lake and graduated from Devils Lake High School in 1982. He joined the Marines after graduation. After basic training, he served at Camp Lejeune before going to Beirut. However, the group was diverted for a short time to Grenada where they took part in the rescue of American citizens from that island and to help restore democracy. Kraft’s group was in Beirut two weeks and two days when the bombing occurred at the Beirut airport (on Dec. 4, 1983).
They were in Beirut on an international peackeeping mission.
Randy Kraft said if Todd and his group of Marines had not been delayed in Grenada for a time he figures they would have been at the Marine barracks in Beirut when that bombing occurred.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ramsey National Bank, both in Devils Lake, and Todd’s parents established the Todd A Kraft Memorial Scholarship that is awarded annually.
Todd Kraft, who was the fourth of the five brothers, is buried in Devils Lake.