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The US Invasion of Grenada

Updated on July 23, 2016

Background of the U.S invasion of Grenada

The U.S invasion of Grenada, also known as Operation Urgent Fury was an invasion of the Caribbean island nation by forces led by the United States. It resulted in victory for the United States in just a few weeks. Grenada is a nation inhabited by approximately 91,000 people. The invasion was prompted by a military coup which ousted the revolutionary government; it restored the constitutional government. The invasion was also as a response to the request for help by the Organization of American States (OAS). The official reason given by the U.S government for the invasion was the presence of approximately eight hundred American students at the True Blue Medical Facility. The presence of Soviet and Cuban personnel on the island was also a key factor which tilted the scales.

On attaining independence, Grenada was led by Sir Eric Gairy until 1974. His term was marred by civil unrest in the country. In a charged political atmosphere, he was declared the victor of the 1976 general election, a result which was disputed by the opposition. What ensued was violence between gangs loyal to the New Jewel Movement (NJM), an outfit formed by the opposition and Gairy’s private army; the Mongoose gang. The NJM started plotting on how to overthrow the government; they started receiving specialized military training outside the country. In March 1979, the NJM under the leadership of Maurice Bishop overthrew Gairy’s government and established the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). In October 1983, a splinter group from the party under the leadership of the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard deposed Maurice Bishop. The group placed him under house arrest, protests opposing the action enabled him to escape detention. He attempted to reassert his legitimacy as the leader of the government; this led to his capture and subsequent murder, together with many government officials who were still loyal to him. Hudson Austin then led the army in forming a military council to take charge of the country. Paul Scoon, the Governer General, was immediately subjected to house arrest. A four day full curfew was declared, anybody found on the street would be shot on sight. It has been revealed that the Governor General appealed for the invasion via diplomatic channels (Martin, Doughlas). American officials cited the building of the over 9,000 feet long Point Salines International Airport as a project meant to facilitate the conduit of soviet arms into the region. The U.S government felt that the “Soviet-Cuban militarization” of Grenada was a significant security threat, as proven by the abnormally long runway under construction at the airport. Intelligence sources also indicated soviet interest in the island. The American students were the most mentioned as the factor that tipped the scales.

The US Invasion of Grenada

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The actual fighting of the U.S invasion of Grenada

The invasion commenced at 0500 hours in the morning of 25th October 1983. This was after the forces took off from the Grantley Adams International Airport in the neighboring Barbados after a refueling stopover. The Commander of the American forces during the invasion was Joseph Metcalph III. The U.S forces comprised of elements the branches of military service, together with several special operations teams. The total number of American troops was approximately 7,000; this was bolstered by 300 troops obtained from the Organization of American States. They were resisted by approximately 1,500 Grenadian troops, together with approximately 700 Cuban personnel.

It is alleged that the defenders were ready for the invasion; they hid in strategic positions and offered stubborn resistance. The resistance was so stiff that the U.S troops had to call in two battalions for reinforcement on 16th October (Gilmore 84). The invading forces had a complete naval and air superiority which comprised mainly of naval gunfire support and helicopter gunships, this overwhelmed the local forces. A four-man Navy SEAL team that was to provide commanders with intelligence on the 9,000 foot runway at Point Salines drowned in the heavy seas. A battalion landing team from the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit travelled ashore from the USS Guam. They used helicopters to reach the beaches because of the heavy seas (Stewart, 113). Company E took the lead, they were closely followed by company F and then by company G. The marines hit Pearls Airport which was located in north eastern Grenada. Their original assignment was to secure half of the atoll . They met no considerable resistance, the airfield and its surrounding areas were declared secured in the evening. The heavy surf reduced. Army Rangers parachuted on the southern part of the island from about 500 feet. They met stiff resistance. A couple of Marine companies, F and G took 13 amphibious assault vessels, along with five tanks and landed at Grand Mal, they met no resistance. The two companies moved during the night. Company F took up defensive positions in the northern part of Grenada’s capital. Company G took over the Governor’s residence and rescued some civilians. On the next day, a combined force of Army Ranger and Marine assault helicopter teams secured the Grand Anse area using six helicopters from the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron. The Marines used their Sea Knights to rescue and evacuate the students. The G Company moved on to Fort Frederick, this was the command center of the Grenadian People’s Revolutionary army. This significantly disorganized the resistance. The Fox Company advanced on to secure Fort Rupert and discovered the initial cache of weapons. Almost eight thousand U.S personnel including; soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors participated in the invasion together with 353 soldiers from the allied Caribbean Peace Forces. The American forces suffered a loss of 19 killed and 116 wounded. Grenadian troops had 45 killed and 358 wounded, 24 civilians were killed, of these, 18 were killed in the unintentional bombing of a Grenadian mental infirmary (Gailey, Weaver).

The historical importance of the U.S invasion of Grenada

In as much as Grenada held a tiny chapter in the history of communism worldwide, in contrast to what Maurice Bishop had expected. The liberation of Grenada by northern imperialists was the first time a communist government fell (Bruce, 23). Such an occurrence was not thought to be possible ; this is because the Brezhnev Doctrine stated that once a nation had converted to communism (Reagan, 454), the iron laws of history held that this was a step which could not be reversed. That was over a decade before the tearing of the Berlin wall. In a short time, the Soviet Empire followed Grenada into the rubble of failed totalitarian regimes. The overthrow of the regime in Grenada provided insight into the operations of the Soviet Empire, from the lowest levels of its hierarchy.

Global reaction to the invasion was very negative, the Security Council of the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion (Zunes), a vote which the United States vetoed . The invasion came at a time when the Grenadian people were split by the coup and the subsequent killings (CIA). After the invasion, mass organizations were dismantled in Grenada and labor unions were restructured. The quality of life for the islanders significantly deteriorated following the invasion, this was in spite of American aid. This was very apparent in the health sector where no pediatrician remained in the country, despite of the fact that a majority of the country; approximately 60 percent of the population was under 25 years. There were no psychiatrists left to serve hundreds of mental patients. After the invasion, witch-hunts began across the Caribbean for governments considered sympathetic to leftists. Nations which were of the notion that they were at liberty to receive economic and military aid from whatever country they pleased realized that they had to rethink their policies . For instance, after the invasion, Suriname shutdown the Cuban embassy and expelled the diplomats who worked there.

The most important aspect learnt from the Grenadian invasion was the importance of ideology. Members of the New Jewel Movement strongly believed in communist ideologies and strictly followed communist doctrine. They had not fathomed that fate would only let them lay claim to a minute chapter in the history of the triumph over communism, a victory which was inevitable . During the final moments, internal strife split the New Jewel Movement; Maurice Bishop was murdered by his deputy, Bernard Coard. Grenada was a link between the old and the fresh American imperialism (Kenworthy, 638). The old imperialism was mainly fixated on rolling back communism. This was a component of U.S proxy wars with the USSR (Cahill, 8). This was the American term for its backyard, a natural place for it to occupy.

After the invasion, a historical change that occurred and had never been witnessed before was the mushrooming of pro-imperialist Western leftists (Hayward, 13). This faction included everybody, from anarchists to Marxists to Trotskyites. They believed that socialism would be satisfied by adopting and internalizing the discourses and political agenda of liberal capitalism. Following the invasion, this shift toward neoliberal ideologies had never been observed before (Kinzer). The left had a unifying factor in its anti-imperialism.

On a more productive tone, the Latin American region was left more unified, stronger and dominant than ever. This was partly due to the invasion and the memories it held across the region.

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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 8 months ago from Pasadena CA

      This article is clearly written from research, not experience. And there's a lot of mixed up research out there. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Grenada less than a year after Coard's coup. He really messed things up - stopping short a government that was working well for the island. Coard shot Bishop and seven of his ministers in the fort named after Bishop's father. The U.S. came in, upon request, to imprison Coard and set up an interim government, until elections could be held - which they were the following year, while I was still there.