Operation Urgent Fury (1983)

The Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, was a 1983 United States-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of about 100,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela. Triggered by a bloody military coup which had ousted a four-year revolutionary government, the invasion resulted in a restoration of constitutional government. There were several objectives to the invasion; one being to free the captive American medical students at the True Blue Medical Facility.

Salinas Airport
Salinas Airport

Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. The leftist New Jewel Movement seized power in a coup in 1979 suspending the constitution. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began on 25 October 1983, less than 48 hours after the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

The US Army’s Rapid Deployment Force, Marines, Army Delta Force and Navy SEALS and other combined forces consisted of the 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System defeated Grenadian resistance after a low-altitude airborne assault by the 75th Rangers on Point Salines Airport on the southern end of the island while a Marine helicopter and amphibious landing occurred on the northern end at Pearl’s Airfield shortly afterward. The military government of Hudson Austin was deposed and replaced by a government appointed by Governor-General Paul Scoon until elections were held in 1984.

The date of the invasion is now a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, and the Point Salines International Airport was renamed in honour of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.The invasion highlighted issues with communication and coordination between the branches of the United States military, contributing to investigations and sweeping changes, in the form of the Goldwater–Nichols Act and other reorganizations.

The Invasion

160th
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment

The invasion, which commenced at 05:00 on 25 October 1983, began when forces refuelled and departed from the Grantley Adams International Airport on the nearby Caribbean island of Barbados before daybreak en-route to Grenada. It was the first major operation conducted by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III, Commander Second Fleet, was the overall commander of U.S. forces, designated Joint Task Force 120, which included elements of each military service and multiple special operations units. Fighting continued for several days and the total number of U.S. troops reached some 7,000 along with 300 troops from the OAS. The invading forces encountered about 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and about 700 Cubans. Also present were 60 advisors from the Soviet Union, North Korea, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Libya.

According to journalist Bob Woodward in his book Veil, the supposed captured “military advisers” from the aforementioned countries were actually accredited diplomats and included their dependents.

75th Rangers in Grenada.
75th Rangers in Grenada.

Official U.S. sources state that some of 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 26 October. The total naval and air superiority of the coalition forces – including helicopter gunships and naval gunfire support – overwhelmed the local forces.

Nearly eight thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines had participated in URGENT FURY along with 353 Caribbean allies of the CPF. U.S. forces had sustained 19 killed (17 of which resulted from mistakes/ friendly fire) and 116 wounded; Cuban forces sustained 25 killed, 59 wounded and 638 combatants captured. Grenadian forces casualties were 45 killed and 358 wounded; at least 24 civilians were killed, several of whom were killed in the accidental bombing of a Grenadian mental hospital.

US Special Operations Forces Involved

  • 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions conducted low-level Airborne Assault to secure Point Salinas Airport. Hunter Army Airfield, GA and Ft. Lewis, WA
  • 4th Psychological Operations Group – provided loudspeaker support and dissemination of informational pamphlets. Fort Bragg, NC
  • 5th Weather Squadron, 5th Weather Wing (MAC) Fort Bragg, NC – Jump qualified Combat Weathermen who are attached and deployed with the 82nd, now in AFSOC
  • 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta Fort Bragg, NC
  • Navy SEALs: SEAL Team FOUR Little Creek, VA and SEAL Team SIX Virginia Beach, VA
  • 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) Ft Campbell, KY
  • 16th Special Operations Wing – flew AC-130H Spectre gunships

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