Operation Sharp Edge

Operation Sharp Edge

Operation Sharp Edge was a non-combatant evacuation operation carried out by the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) of the United States Marine Corps in Liberia in 1990 and 1991.


The First Liberian Civil War broke out in December 1989. Increasing violence between political and ethnic factions, including in the capital of Monrovia, had made it impossible for American diplomats and civilians to make safe passage to the U.S. Embassy to exit the country.


The 22nd MEU was composed of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2nd Battalion 4th Marines (ground combat element), HMM-261 (REIN) (aviation combat element) and MSSG-22 (logistics combat element).

Company "H" of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines executed a pre-dawn vertical envelopment of the besieged U.S. Embassy, with 237 Marines inserted via medium and heavy lift Marine CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. The landing zones were under sporadic fire from light, medium and heavy weapons from belligerents. "Hotel" Company secured an extended perimeter around the U.S. Embassy and began evacuation of other allied embassies. Ground elements were supported by U.S. Marine AH-1W SuperCobra helicopters and Marine AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft. Simultaneously, elements of BLT 2/4 secured landing zones in the surrounding areas, extracting U.S. and foreign nationals. Non-combatants were flown off to the USS Saipan (LHA-2) for processing and ultimately Freetown, Sierra Leone.

On 2 August 1990, the same day Iraq invaded Kuwait, the 22nd MEU and support elements were relieved by the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked in the USS Inchon (LPH-12) The 26th MEU was relieved by FAST Company 5th Platoon of the Marine Corps. They evacuated a total of 2,609 people between the summer of 1990 and 9 January 1991.

2nd Battalion 4th Marines was redeployed to the Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield and took part in Operation Desert Storm a few months later.

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