Invasion of Grenada

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Invasion of Grenada
Part of the Cold War

U.S. Army Rangers parachute into Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury
Date October 25, 1983 - December 15, 1983
Location Grenada
Result Decisive US-led victory
Marxist regime toppled
United States
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Lucia
St. Vincent
7,300 Grenada: 1,500 regulars
Cuba: 600 (mostly engineers)
19 killed; 116 wounded Grenada: 45 military and at least 24 civilian deaths; 358 wounded.
Cuba: 25 killed, 59 wounded, 638 taken prisoner.

The Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, was an invasion of the island nation of Grenada by the United States of America and several other nations in response to a coup d'état by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. From October 25, the United States, Barbados, Jamaica and members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States landed troops on Grenada, defeated Grenadian and Cuban resistance and overthrew Coard's government.


In 1979, a bloodless coup d’état, led by New Jewel Movement leader Maurice Bishop, toppled the government of Eric Gairy to establish a Marxist-Leninist government that quickly aligned itself with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Under Bishop, Grenada began a military build-up, of significant proportions for a country that had previously maintained a small army. The government also began constructing an international airport with the help of Cuba. U.S. President Ronald Reagan pointed to this airport and several other sites as evidence of the potential threat posed by Grenada towards the United States. The U.S. government accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean, and to assist Soviet and Cuban transports in transporting weapons to Central American insurgents. However, Bishop’s government claimed that the airport was built to accommodate commercial aircraft carrying tourists.

On October 13, 1983, a faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard seized power; Coard's forces subsequently executed Bishop in spite of mass protests in Bishop’s favour. The Governor-General of Grenada, Paul Scoon, was placed under house arrest. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) appealed to the United States, Barbados, and Jamaica. According to the prime ministers of Barbados and Jamaica, this formal appeal was at the behest of the United States.

The bloody seizure of power within a Marxist-Leninist state in the United States' “backyard”, combined with the presence of nearly 1,000 American medical students on Grenada, prompted the U.S. government to take military action. The U.S. government described the invasion as a “noncombatant evacuation operation” for the U.S. students on the island.

In the October 29 issue of the New York Times, Mythu Sivapalan disputed one of the U.S. government’s reasons:

The wording of the formal request, however, was drafted in Washington and conveyed to the Caribbean leaders by special American emissaries. Both Cuba and Grenada, when they saw that American ships were heading for Grenada, sent urgent messages promising that American students were safe and urging that an invasion not occur. [...] There is no indication that the administration made a determined effort to evacuate the Americans peacefully. [...] Officials have acknowledged that there was no inclination to try to negotiate with the Grenadian authorities.

The invasion

The invasion, which commenced at 05:00 on October 25, was the first major operation conducted by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. Fighting continued for several days and the total number of American troops reached some 7,000 along with 300 troops from the OECS. The invading forces encountered about 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and about 600 Cubans, most of whom were combat engineers.

Official U.S. sources state that the defenders were well-prepared, well-positioned and put up stubborn resistance, to the extent that the U.S. called in two battalions of reinforcements on the evening of October 26. However, the total naval and air superiority of the invading forces — including helicopter gunships and naval artillery support — proved to be significant advantages.

The U.S. forces had 19 killed and 116 were injured in the fighting. Grenada suffered 45 military and at least 24 civilian deaths, along with 358 soldiers wounded. Cuba had 25 killed in action, with 59 wounded and 638 taken prisoner.

In mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the Governor-General, the U.S. forces withdrew.

Although the U.S. military proved its post-Vietnam ability to quickly respond to a crisis and prevail, subsequent analysis by the U.S. Department of Defense showed a need for improved communications and coordination between the different branches of the Armed Forces. Some of these recommendations resulted in the formation of the United States Special Operations Command in 1987.

International opposition and criticism

Grenada was part of the Commonwealth of Nations and — following the invasion — it requested help from other Commonwealth members. The invasion was opposed by the United Kingdom and Canada, among others. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally opposed the U.S. invasion, and her Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, announced to the House of Commons on the day before the invasion that he had no knowledge of any possible U.S. intervention. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, assured her that an invasion was not contemplated. Reagan later said "She was very adamant and continued to insist that we cancel our landings on Grenada. I couldn't tell her that it had already begun."

After the invasion, Prime Minister Thatcher wrote to President Reagan:

This action will be seen as intervention by a Western country in the internal affairs of a small independent nation, however unattractive its regime. I ask you to consider this in the context of our wider East-West relations and of the fact that we will be having in the next few days to present to our Parliament and people the siting of Cruise missiles in this country...I cannot conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication.

The invasion of Grenada drew criticisms and condemnation from around the world.

In Mexico City, 10,000 students marched on the U.S. embassy. Hundreds more stormed the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. In the Dominican Republic, demonstrations broke out that were put down by gun fire. In Trinindad, the Oil Refinery Workers Union condemned the invasion, and massive protests were held in Havana, Cuba and Managua, Nicaragua.

In the United States itself, the Congressional Black Caucus condemned the invasion, as did 300 AFSCME delegates representing over 115,000 municipal workers in New York City.

Popular culture

The invasion is featured in the last half-hour of Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood’s movie about the United States Marine Corps.

The invasion of Grenada is mentioned in the Adam Sandler movie Anger Management, when Adam’s “anger buddy” mentioned his past military experience; his “anger buddy” says he was in the Invasion of Grenada, and Sandler responds “Didn’t Grenada last for like twelve hours? We kicked ass.” It is also mentioned in Die Hard 2: the commanding officer of the antagonists reveals that his team of lawbreakers was formed in the invasion of Grenada, “lying on a beach all day.” Further, Grenada is repeatedly referenced by the journalist Wayne Gale in the movie Natural Born Killers.

In Orson Scott Card's Enchantment, Cousin Marik wonders of the United States assault teams would be able to handle a witch from the Middle Ages as easily as they handled the "vast armies of Grenada."

Urgent Fury - A unique, scenario-based tournament based on the SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs franchise for the Playstation 2 video gaming system.

Order of battle

Grenadian and other communist forces

U.S. and allied land forces

U.S. naval forces

Amphibious Squadron Four

USS Guam, USS Barnstable County, USS Manitowoc, USS Fort Snelling, USS Trenton

Independence Task Group USS Independence, USS Richmond K. Turner, USS Coontz, USS Caron, USS Moosbrugger, USS Clifton Sprague, USS Suribachi

In addition, the following ships supported naval operations: USS Aquila, USS Aubrey Fitch, USS Briscoe, USS Portsmouth, USS Recovery, USS Saipan, USS Sampson. USS Samuel Eliot Morison and USS Taurus.

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