Invasion of Grenada

From Academic Kids

Military history of Grenada
Military history of the United States
ConflictInvasion of Grenada
ResultRegime toppled
United States of America, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent Grenada, Cuba, et al.
7,300 unknown
19 dead, 116 wounded Grenadian military: 49 dead and 358 wounded; Cuban military: 29 dead and 100+ wounded; Civilians: 45 dead

The Invasion of Grenada, known to U.S. forces as Operation Urgent Fury, was an invasion of the island nation of Grenada by the military forces of the United States and several Caribbean nations. The conflict began on October 25, 1983, when the United States armed forces landed troops on the beaches of Grenada.

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 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. Reagan accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean, and of greatly militarizing a country that had previously maintained a relatively small army.

Prime Minister Bishop went to Washington, D.C., to attempt to quell these fears. Soon after, a faction led by the strongly pro-Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard seized power;Coard's forces subsequently executed Bishop in spite of mass protests in Bishop's favor. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) appealed to the United States, Barbados, and Jamaica to assist them, though according to the prime ministers of Barbados and Jamaica, this formal appeal was privately "requested" by the U.S.

The combination of a bloody seizure of power by a hardline Marxist group within the U.S. "sphere of influence" prompted it to act militarily. The U.S. government described the invasion as a "noncombatant evacuation operation" for almost 600 American medical students on the island. It also claimed that the airstrip was built to accommodate Soviet and Cuban transport craft to carry arms to aid Central American insurgents —Bishop's government claimed that it was built to accommodate commercial aircraft carrying tourists. Documents captured by the U.S. after the invasion have tended to support the U.S. government's suspicions.

Mythu Sivapalan disputed the U.S. government's reasons in an article in the October 29 issue of the New York Times: "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 was opposed by the British government, as Grenada was part of the Commonwealth of Nations, and Queen Elizabeth was head of state as Queen of Grenada. Grenada requested help from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Margaret Thatcher contacted Ronald Reagan, telling him “in the strongest possible terms” that “Grenada was part of the British Commonwealth, and the United States had no business interfering in its affairs.” Reagan 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”. 1

After the invasion, Prime Minister Thatcher wrote to 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”1

Within Grenada the invasion was popular —due to public outrage at Bishop's execution and fear resulting from the continuous curfew after Coard's seizure of power — and the U.S. forces were welcomed as liberators.

Fighting continued for several days and the total number of American troops reached some 7,000 along with 300 troops from the assisting neighboring islands of Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent. They encountered soldiers and advisors from various countries, which consisted of: 1200 Grenadans, 784 Cubans (including 636 construction workers and 43 military personnel —both official Cuban figures), 49 Soviets, 24 North Koreans, 16 East Germans, 14 Bulgarians, 3 or 4 Libyans.

By mid-December, the American troops withdrew after a new government was appointed by the governor-general. Four U.S. Navy Seal Team Members lost their lives and two were injured. They were opposed by some Grenadian and Cuban military units.

In 1984, Reagan often quipped that Grenada had to be invaded because it was the world's largest producer of nutmeg. He also said, "You can't make eggnog without nutmeg."


Note 1: 1993, Margaret Thatcher The Downing Street Years pages 327 to 331.

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