The burgers have landed.

Three thousand pre-cooked and frozen hamburgers for U.S. Marines serving in Lebanon arrived in Beirut yesterday, paid for and shipped free of charge by American firms that had heard the Marines were not eating as well as their French counterparts in the multinational peace-keeping force.

The idea for the hamburger airlift came from Steve Allen, a disc jockey with station WDJX in Dayton, Ohio, the Pentagon said. Allen, in telephone interviews yesterday, said he got the notion last week after hearing that the Marines were eating cold C-rations while the French were supposedly dining on hot food and wine.

His station had just broadcast an ad for White Castle, an old-line, nationwide fast-food hamburger chain headquartered in Ohio that promises to deliver anywhere. Allen said he called White Castle officials.

The response was enthusiastic, he said, and the burgers -- with bun, ketchup, salt and pickle -- were on their way from Dayton by Saturday, flown free in refrigerated cartons by Emory Air Freight.

In Beirut, a spokesman for the U.S. contingent greeted the shipment as "a little touch of home" but said that unless a way could be found to heat the burgers, they might have to be eaten cold.

The Pentagon said, however, that the burgers will be shuttled by helicopter to ships offshore to be heated, then flown back to the Marine encampments.