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Grenada, 1983: Operation "Urgent Fury"
By Tom Cooper, with additional details by Dr. Sanjay Badri-Maharaj
Sep 1, 2003, 12:57

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Grenada is positioned some 190km away from Venezuela, and was a British colony until 1974. In March 1979 Maurice Bishop came to power by a coup at the time the country was facing serious economical problems. In a wish to improve the situation, Bishop turned to Cuba and other communist countries for help, and in the following months and years an increasing number of „tourists“ from East Europe and Cuba arrived on the island.

The Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, was glad to be able to help, and this fact – together with Bishop turning down US requests to organize democratic elections – lead straight to a confrontation between Grenada and Washington. The US administration became especially concerned when plans for the building of a sizeable airfield near Point Salines became known in the public. Officially, this airfield was to be used for bringing more tourists to Grenada; in fact, the Cubans were planning to use it as hub for supporting Communist activities in Central and Southern America. A British company Plessey Airports was contracted to build the new airfield, but its workers were foremost Cubans. The new airfield was to be completed by the early 1984.

Simultaneously with Cuban workers also Cuban and Soviet instructors for the People’s Revolution Army (PRA) arrived, together with a considerable amount of lighter weapons. Within only few years the PRA developed into the strongest army in the whole eastern Carribic. The Cubans and Bishop planned to enlarge the PRA further, yet their plans were not similar with the ideas of the Grenada’s population - while few other of Grenadian politicians were for an even tighter cooperation with Cuba. Already in the late summer of 1983 there were first quarrels within Bishop’s cabinet, and on 13 October Bishop and several of his ministers were arrested during a coup organized by several pro-communist politicians and higher officers - led by prime minister Coard, and Gen. Hudson Austin. There are indications that this coup was supported by the Soviets. Namely, the USSR was not especially delighted about Bishop's leadership: from what is known the Soviets were foremost disappointed by the relatively "lax revolutionary control" imposed on Grenada.

The coup caused even more resentments in the population and soon enough there were demonstrations on the streets, some of which ended with attacks against prisons in which political opponents were held. During such an attack against the Mt. Royal prison Bishop came free, but the commanding PRA officer then lost the nerves and ordered the guards to open fire into the gathering: in the resulting chaos Bishop and at least 100 other were killed, and finally the new regime imposed curfew over the whole island.

The massacre of Mt. Royal caused a shock in neighboring countries, and the governments of six other islands then requested help from Jamaica, Barbados, and the USA. Washington was monitoring carefully the developments on Grenada with increasing concern since quite some time, and already on 19 October 1983 the planning for deployment of 1.400 troops into the area was initiated. After Grenada was overflown by several Lockheed SR-71s and more informations were gathered, the US President Reagan ordered an intervention to be initiated on 25 October 1983.

The Blitz-Invasion

The sudden outbreak of the crisis caused some problems for the planning and execution of an intervention. A very swift reaction possible because right at the needed time two battle groups of the USN were setting near the east coast of the USA. Both were ready for action: the TF.124, lead by Capt. Erie, was an amphibious task force, consisting of the helicopter carrier USS Guam (LPH-6) and several escorts, carrying 1.700 marines of the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) and attack- and transport helicopters of the HMM-261 to Lebanon, where these should have replaced the troops of the 24th MEU. The second task force was led by the carrier USS Independence (CV-62), with aircraft of the CVW-6 aboard, and it was also underway to the Mediterranean. On 21 October both battle groups were ordered to approach Grenada.

The first US plan for an operation on Grenada was for evacuation of US citizens from Pearl, a small airfield in the south of the island - to Barbados. However, after rehearsing the updated intelligence about situation on Grenada it became clear that the US troops had to expect stronger resistance as the new Grenadian dictator would not permit anything similar. On the contrary, fierce resistance was expected from between 1.200 and 1.500 members of the PRA, and between 2.000 and 5.000 People’s Militia, while the status of 700 Cuban workers and military instructors was as unclear as that of a small group of Soviet SPETSNAZ-operators known to have been at Grenada as well. For this reason, the Marines were to be reinforced by US Army units, and execute an all-out invasion. This plan became known as Operation „Urgent Fury“, and it included the deployment of a single brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, specific units of the 1st Special Operations Command, and parts of the 1st Special Operations Wing, from Hurlburt Field AFB, in Florida. From these units, the 22nd MAU, and the two naval task forces, the Joint Task Force 120 (JTF.120) was created under command by Rear Admiral Metcalf, stationed aboard the USS Guam.

Order of Battle for Flying Units of the JTF.120

USN
CVW-6, based aboard USS Independence (in the area between 22 October and 3 November 1983), coded „AE“
- VF-14 Tophatters, F-14A
- VF-32 Swordsmen, F-14A
- VA-15 Valions, A-7E
- VA-87 Golden Warriors, A-7E
- VA-176 Thunderbolts, A-6A
- VAQ-131 Lancers, EA-6B
- VAW-122 Steel Jaws, E-2C
- VS-28 Gamblers, S-3A
- HS-15 Red Lions, SH-3G

USMC
- HMM-261 (coded „EM“), CH-46E, CH-53D, UH-1N, and including AH-1Ts of the HML-167 (coded „TV“), based aboard USS Guam (LPH-6), (present in the area between 24 October and 3 November 1983).

US Army
- 160th Avn. Grp./TF.160, OH-58C/D, OH-6A, based on Barbados and Grenada
- Avn.Bde 82nd Airborne Division, UH-60A, based on Barbados
- Avn.Bde 101st Airborne Division, UH-60A, based on Barbados
- 57th Medical Detachment, UH-60A, based on Barbados and Grenada.

USAF
- 314th, 317th, 459th, 463rd TAW, C-130H, based at Little Rock, Pope, Andrews, and Dyess AFBs,
- 60th, 62nd, 63rd, 315th, 437th, 438th, and 514th MAW, C-141Bs, based at Travis, McChord, Norton, Charleston, andMcGuirre AFB,
- 436th and 512th MAW, C-5A, based at Dover AFB,
- 8th SOS, MC130E, based at Hurlburt Field AFB,
- 16th SOS/1st SOW, AC-130H Spectre, based at Bridgetown and Hurlburt Field AFB,
- 193rd ECS, EC-130E, based at Harrisburg AFB,
- 552nd ECS, E-3A, based at Tinker AFB,
- 71st ARS, KC-10A, based at Barkasdale AFB,
- 33rd TFW, F-15A, based at Eglin AFB, but forward-deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads,
- 23rd TFW, A-10A, based at Eglin AFB and Bridgetown.

The main transport type used during the Operation Urgent Fury were C-130E and C-130H of the USAF. From the second day of the war these aircraft participated in an airbridge to Point Salienes, flying in reinforcements and supplies.


Opposition

The Cubans were relatively swift to recognize what is about to happen, and they issued a warning on the new regime on Grenada that an invasion was imminent. Castro made it clear to Austin that he would not be able to offer much help, as well as that the available military assets were simply not sufficient for the defense of the island. Furthermore, the Soviets and Cubans already on Grenada were not to be put under Austin’s control, even if they were ordered to help prepare the defences of Point Salinas airfield.

Left to itself, the PRA nevertheless immediately initiated preparations for defense, deploying heavier weapons around airfields, HQs, and on some beaches. The Cuban workers then blocked the runway at Salinas, using trucks and different building materials. Therefore, it could be said that both sides were ready for the fight, even if they had to prepare in a rush.

First Mishaps

US units involved in Urgent Fury started moving on the evening of 23 October. The plan for operation called for a combined initial attacks by rangers, marines, and paras, partially deployed from the air, and in part by amphibious landings. They were first to capture both airfields, and then neuralgic points around Grenada.

Of course, the first wave was to a large degree to consist of units trained for special purposes, like USN SEALs and US Army DELTA Force operators. Both were deployed to Grenada during the night to 24 October, with the help of Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talons of the 8th SOS, using the HALO-jump technique. The SEALs and DELTAs first took positions from which they could observe the situation on the two airfields, as the US commanders realized that they were lacking proper intelligence, and even the SR-71-overflights could not properly help.

Right from the start, the special troops encountered severe problems: for example, a group of SEALs jumped too far from the coast and fell into the water. Four operators did not manage to get free of their chutes and heavy equipment, and drowned. All of the survivors lacked good maps of Grenada: in fact, most of the US troops went into the battle using tourist maps! Time and again the SEALs and DELTA-operators stumbled over completely unknown enemy positions. Nevertheless, their insertions remained completely undetected by the opposition.

On the other side, on the morning of 24 October a Cuban Antonov An-24 transport landed at Pearl, bringing Col. Comaz to the island. Comaz was to take over the command of 53 Cuban instructors and 636 workers and lead them into the fight against the Americans. He could not do much, however, as there was simply not enough time. In the night from 24 to 25 October, around 2200hrs local time, additional SEALs were deployed to the northern coast of Grenada, where they were to do reconnaissance of the eventual defenses on local beaches. Their reports – exactly like those from the troops deployed the night before – brought no good news: the beaches were surrounded by coral reefs, and no amphibious landings were possible.

On the first view, it appeared as if the whole operation would have to be cancelled. Clearly, this was not possible any more, as at the same time as the additional SEALs were deployed to Grenada, already the first Lockheed C-130E Hercules transports of the 314th 317th, 459th, and 463rd TAW USAF, as well as the C-130Es of the 913rd TAW were starting from their bases in the USA, loaded with rangers of 82nd Airborne. The Hercules‘ were escorted by five MC-130Es, carrying rangers of the 75th Regiment, and a single Lockheed AC-130H Spectre-gunship of the 16th SOS/1st SOW that were to lead the attack against Point Salines. During their ten-hours long flight, the transports had to be refueled two times in the air from Boeing KC-135s.

The invasion of Grenada was to start with simultaneous strikes at both airfields on the island, so to immediately cut off the Cubans and Grenadese defense forces, as well as to ascertain an undisturbed flow of supplies and enable reinforcements to be brought forward. (US DoD)


Battle for Point Salines

Around 0500hrs local time, the sole AC-130H arrived over the Point Salines airfield and found the runway blocked. This revelation caused the commander of the battle group that was about to land there to change the plan in the last moment – while in the air, approaching the target. There was not to be any kind of an amphibious landing, and the Hercules were not to land on Salines in order to disgorge rangers: not only the first blow but also the whole initial invasion had to be delivered from the air.

While the troops aboard the Hercules-transports were getting ready for a jump over the airfields, aboard the USS Guam the marines were forced to get ready for a heliborne deployment, using Boeing-Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, escorted by Bell AH-1T Cobras of the HML-167. Although all the preparations were undertaken in a rush, the Marines swiftly adapted to a new situation. Nevertheless, their attack against the Pearl airfield then had to be postponed due to strong rain...

The whole US operation was now on a brink of a failure – before it even properly started.

The Marines were not to stop, however: the heavily loaded helicopters took off, formed a formation of a column and took a course towards Grenada. Around 05:20hrs, they exited the rain right above the target - and landed immediately. The sudden arrival of the helicopters and a considerable number of the marines despite the bad weather took the defenders completely by surprise: most were captured almost in a state of shock and panic. By 06:30hrs, not only the Pearl airfield, but also the nearby town of Grenville were under US control.

At Point Salines the matters developed differently. The five MC-130Es and the single AC-130H first had to orbit off Grenada, waiting for the remaining Hercules transports and additional Gunships, so to be able to start a massive onslaught and overpower the enemy by their sheer numbers, but also in order to give rangers enough time to ready for a jump into combat. Once everybody was ready, the transports formed a long column, lead by an AC-130H that had the commander of the 75th Rangers, Col. Hunter, aboard - and five MC-130s. The whole formation then turned towards Grenada, flying at a very low level in order to evade early detection by the Cuban radars. On the end of the column, two additional AC-130Hs were positioned.

As soon as the first AC-130 arrived over Salines, the Cubans and the PRA-troops opened fierce anti-aircraft fire. Col. Hunter immediately ordered all AC-130s to suppress the enemy AAA, but the first ingress for the drop of the paras had to be aborted and the whole column was ordered to turn away. In the ensuing chaos one of the Hercules-crews misunderstood the order and dropped its paras right into the defensive fire: as in a wonder, not a single of 30 troops was injured, and – supported by the AC-130s – they were swift to regroup on the ground and start their attack.

Despite evasion manoeuvres and heavy fire from AC-130, the Grenadese flaks damaged two Gunships and also a single MC-130E before the rangers fought them down, around 06:15hrs. Now the whole column of transports came back and in the following minutes 250 rangers jumped from a level of only 220 meters. In fact, the level was so low, that the Grenadese crewing anti-aircraft guns on nearby hills were unable to depress their barrels low enough to open fire at them!

As soon as the Rangers were on the ground, the first LTV A-7E Corsair IIs from USS Independence arrived to deliver more bombs on Cuban and Grenadese flaks. The Grenadese and Cubans were expecting an amphibious invasion and not an airborne attack: consequently, only a small number of their AAA-guns were deployed around the airfield. This was swiftly neutralized by the heavy fire from 20-, 40-, and 105mm cannons of the AC-130 Gunships and bombs as well as 20mm cannon fire of the A-7Es. In the following minutes the rangers captured the airfield and then secured the perimeter, defending several local Grenadese - and one half-hearted - Cuban counterattacks. By 07:30hrs, Point Salines was finally in US hands, and 200 Cuban soldiers and workers were captured, together with a considerable cache of weapons and ammunition.

During the Cuban counterattack, the Rangers were supported by Marine AH-1Ts, which destroyed three APCs. After the runway was cleared, around 14:05, the first transports with additional troops of the 82nd Airborne landed on Salines, and then even more followed, flown-in aboard Lockheed C-141 StarLifters of the 60th, 62nd, 63rd, 315th, 437th, 438th, and 514th MAW.

Scene from the Point Salines airfield, as seen on the second or third day of the US intervention on Grenada. In the foreground an USAF C-130 is unloading supplies; behind it an USMC CH-46 is being readied for taking a group of Marines aboard; in the background a captured Cubana Antonov An-26 and An-2 can be seen. (US DoD)


SEALs in Trouble

While the Marines and Rangers managed to secure their first targets despite considerable enemy resistance and bad weather, the special operations run into one problem after the other. A platoon of SEALs captured the radio-station „Free Grenada“, but managed to put it off the air only after it reported the start of the US attack - and issued a call for general mobilization.

The DELTA troops were inserted to Richmond Hill with the help of Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters of the 101st Airborne Division – that refuelled aboard the USS Guam – but, contrary to the Marines, they came 45 minutes late due to the bad weather, and found defenders alerted and ready. Fierce anti-aircraft fire immediately hit and shot down one UH-60A, and at least a single Hughes MH-6, killing a pilot and injuring six crewmembers. The attack had to be called off – that is, as soon as the crews of downed helicopters could be evacuated.

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters of the US Army saw their premiere in combat operations during the intervention on Grenada. Seven can be seen landing US Army troops on one of the two airfields on Grenada, early during this short intervention. An AH-1 can be seen in the background, monitoring the development and ready to surpress any defensive fire if needed. (US DoD)


The third operation of the special forces was undertaken by the SEALs, and was planned to free the British Governor: the representative of the British Commonwealth - still a highly important and influential figure on Grenada - was held captive by the PRA in his house. The 22 SEALs were highly successful in entering the house, but then fell into a well-set-up trap, being encircled by numerically superior enemy. Admiral Metcalf immediately ordered the AC-130Hs to support them, and dispatched additional Marines aboard helicopters from USS Guam: what he and his officers oversaw, however, was the fact that the Governor's House was inside the range of Grenadese flaks positioned around Forts Frederick and Ruppert.

As the first two AH-1Ts approached the Governor's House, the Grenadese (and few Cubans) opened withering fire from their ZPU-14s, ZSU-23s, and BTR-60 APCs. The Cobras tried to take cover behind the vegetation: as one of them climbed slightly in order to fire a TOW ATGM, however, it was hit and the pilot injured. The crew survived the crash of the helicopter, but as the gunner tried to extract the pilot out of the wreckage he was shot by small-arms fire. The second Cobra called for help, and – together with an AC-130H – then supported a CH-46E that landed in order to evacuate the downed crew. As the Sea Knight started back into the air the second Cobra was simultaneously hit from several sides and shot down. The crew was immediately killed.

The situation of the SEALs now became precarious, as minutes later the Cubans started a vigorous attack against the Government House. This was stopped only with the help of the Specters, and precise fire of the SEALs: the last, however, lacked anti-tank weapons, and were slowly running out of ammunition. The troubles of the SEALs finally forced the American commanders to order AC-130s into more attacks. As the Spectres were delivering one salvo after the other, also additional A-7Es were called in, and the fierce air attacks finally forced the Cubans to pull back. There was no respite, however, as the SEALs were still surrounded. Additional air strikes simultaneously forced the Grenadese and Cubans also out of Pearls, and as the perimeter around that airfield was thus enlargened, in the evening also six 105mm guns were flown in.

After the war, there was severe criticism for the SEALs, which were blamed for poor preparation of their operations – especially the attack on the Governor House. However, the fact was that the main reason for the mishaps and casualties suffered during this attack was the poor intelligence: the US commanders simply lacked exact reports about the enemy positions and strength.

Final Problems

On the morning of 26 October, Admiral Metcalf was actually preparing to deal with some other problems but the situation of the SEALs at the Governors House. However, these were in such a critical position, that now an order was issued for the Marines to attempt an amphibious landing on the beaches nearby, and break through. At dawn a number of LVT-7 APCs and five M-60A1 Patton MBTs went on the beach at Grand Mal: supported by additional heavy attacks, they breached the Grenadese and Cuban positions and drove for Grand Anse Campus, where it was suspected that also 200 US students were held captive.

In support of this drive the Marines organized their next heliborne operation. Around 16:30hrs a column of CH-46Es approached the Campus, but was immediately confronted with fierce anti-aircraft fire. The lead helicopter was hit while still over the water, and forced to make emergency landing into the shallow sea off the beach. The rangers and the crew were evacuated by another CH-46s. Minutes later Grumman A-6E Intruders and A-7E Corsair IIs from USS Independence delivered a heavy strike against the anti-aircraft guns, and either disabled them and killed the crews, or forced the rest of opposition to flee. The A-7s also continued their strikes against flak-positions near Forts Ruppert and Frederick, but one of the bombs went astry and hit the psychiatric hospital nearby, killing several patients.

Despite problems, in the afternoon the Marines finally reached the Cuban positions surrounding the Governors House, and around 19:00hrs they established a contact with the SEALs. The crisis was now finally over; the problems not.

Simultaneously, the troops of the 82nd Airborne were – after being reinforced and getting enough supplies – to break out of their bridgehead at Point Salines towards north. Supported by Bell OH-58 Kiowas and UH-60A helicopters, and AC-130 Spectres, they destroyed a better part of a small Cuban battle group in their way. In the following night, it was felt safe to deploy the Black Hawks of the 82nd Airborne, together with some OH-58s and UH-1s, and a medical company to the Point Salines airfield. The helicopters started arriving around 02:00hrs on 27 October. But, once they landed it was realized that the local fuel dump was empty. Because of this, in the same night a large-scale transport operation for considerable amounts of fuel had to be organized, with Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions and CH-46s of USS Guam being used. Regardless how much fuel was flown in, however, it became clear that no additional helicopters could be stationed on Grenada for the time being: all the other machines of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had to remain on Barbados. The same was the case with AC-130s: none could be refueled on the island, and so the A-6s and A-7s from USS Independence – as well as the two remaining AH-1Ts from USS Guam – remained the most important air-support assets.

Nevertheless, the C-130 and C-141 transports continued landing at Salines, while the Lockheed C-5 Galaxys were forced to divert to Barbados, as the airfield was simply not large enough to handle them.

A CH-53, probably belonging to the HMM-261, seen together with several Marines of the JTF-120. The Sea Stallion proved its worth beyond any doubt during the Operation Urgent Fury, hauling heavy loads from US Navy amphibious ships.


Search for US Hostages

Despite many mishaps, the operation of securing and evacuating US civilians was a success: one campus was secured and evacuated successfully already on the first day of the war, and Grand Anse followed on 26th. Most of the civilians were flown out to USS Guam aboard CH-46 helicopters. Others were evacuated from Campus True Blue to Point Salines, from where they were flown out directly to the USA aboard the transport aircraft. All this was undertaken without a single loss despite the constant threat of Cuban and Grenadese snipers.

On 27 October, the elements of the 82nd Division – repeatedly supported by A-7Es from the USS Independence – continued their advance via Frequente towards north. Some problems in coordination of air strikes were encounered, and in one case a USN Corsair hit US Army positions, injuring 16 soldiers. Nevertheless, other strikes were highly effective, and under the pressure the Cuban resistance almost ceased, while the PRA largerly fell apart. By the noon of 27 October, the situation of the US troops on Grenada was thus slightly surprising: the local population was very friendly, most of the US citizens were recovered safely and underway back to the USA, and the enemy was pulling back or giving up. Nevertheless, one task remained to be done: the attack against the last Cuban stronghold, near Calvigny.

Without any apparent need, this operation was prepared in a rush and - again - without proper reconnaissance. A whole company of Rangers was put into eight UH-60As of the 82nd Airborne and sent on the way.

The Black Hawks reached their target around 16:45hrs, on the heels of another fierce strike delivered by the A-7Es from USS Independence, and even some naval bombardments by 127mm cannons of US destroyers. The UH-60As arrived over the target in a formation of two columns, and the first two landed without any problem. As the third and fourth helicopter came in, one was hit into rotor and crashed – from only few meters over the ground – on the Black Hawk Number 2. Behind the crashing helicopter, Number 4 tried to evade, but made a very hard landing, which caused the tail to break. After the rangers jumped out, the pilot – obviously not knowing about the heavy damage to his helicopter – attempted a take-off: the Black Hawk flipped on the back and fell over the troops that were still nearby, killing three and causing severe injuries to 12 other. Then the helicopters attempted to take off back towards USS Guam. The 30 Cubans defending Calvigny were still in the area and firing fiercely: In addition to causing the loss of two UH-60As they also badly damaged another Black Hawk and a single OH-58: the UH-60A returned to USS Guam with 45 holes in the fuselage!

Aside from this chaos, the remaining three UH-60As landed without problems, and the troops secured the target within only 15 minutes... The tragedy of the helicopter operations near Calvigny was not yet over, however. A single CH-53D was dispatched from USS Guam with an order to recover the wrecks of the UH-60As from Grenada. This operation, however, ended in another loss, as both wrecks had to be released over the sea and written-off, as the crew of the CH-53D tried to winch and transport them back to the carrier both at once.

The troops on the ground were meanwhile in a much better position: the Rangers, Marines, and paras were swift to mop up the remaining groups of Cubans and PRA troops: they found and liberated the remaining students, and then also captured the Richmond Hill prison. By 29 October, "Urgent Fury" was – for all purposes – completed.

Conclusions

Already on 2 November, the Marines of the 22nd MAU were pulled out from Grenada and embarked on their ships in order to continue the trip to Lebanon. The Rangers followed few days later, while the troops of the 82nd Airborne remained on the island slightly longer. The USS Independence carrier battle group also continued the voyage to the Mediterranean, and was only two months later to participate in the fighting there as well. As there were still some concerns about a possible Cuban reaction, on 30 November eight F-15As of the 33rd TFW were deployed to Puerto Rico, while several A-10As of the 23rd TFW deployed to Bridgetown.

Such concerns were not without a good reason: the Cuban Air Force MiG-23BNs played a tangential role in blowing this conflict out of all logical importance in US eyes. There was a real risk that, staging through Point Salines airfield, in Nicaragua, the MiG-23BNs could hit the Trinidadian and Venezuelan oilfields. Both of these countries have substantial oil reserves, installations and associated industries: given the US dependence for oil from these sources, as well as the readiness and combat capabilities of local air defences, this threat was very real. The Venezuelan Air Force F-5s and Mirages might not have been able to stop such an attack (hence the sale of F-16s to Venezuela in 1981). It is certain that Venezuelan Mirages would take quite a while to get on station; the local radar coverage is even today not entirely satisfactory. Without surprise, the Venezuelans invested heavily in acquizition of radars and Roland SAMs in the early 1980s. The situation on Trinidad was worse: there the only air defences consisted of some ageing L-40/60 Bofors guns that would probabyl not work. Regardless how unmotivated the Cuban pilots were at the time, bombing completely undefended oilfields in Trinidad would have been a cinch. Besides, had it come to that, it is easily possible that Soviets or East Germans might have become involved as well - or so at least some speculations.

Otherwise, the operation "Urgent Fury" remains an example for typical US interventions in similar cases until today, even when it comes to the losses: in less than three days of - frequently bitter - combat 19 US servicemen were killed, and 116 injured. A large percentage of these casualties was sustatined in accidents and ceases of fratricide fire.

On the other side, the Cubans lost 25 killed and 59 injured, and the PRA 45 killed and between 350 and 410 killed. While the figures for Cuban and PRA fighters involved and also for their casualties appear "low", some of them - especially the Grenadese - were fighting fiercely and the US military had no easy task against them. In fact, contrary to usual reports, specific Grenadese must be given the credit for fighting the US troops; the Cubans did not really want to do so, then Grenada was not Cuba. Certainly, "Urgent Fury" was no "invasion of a Golf course", as some claim, but a very serious engagement.

During this intervention, the Pentagon deployed almost the same assets like the British did during the Falklands War: while the number of involved ships was much smaller, the number of deployed aircraft and helicopters – and the total firepower – were considerably superior to that of the British in 1982. At least as important was the fact that the US forces had a much shorter reaction time. This came not out of nothing: the Cuban and Grenadese defenses were not as strong or as well armed as the Argentinean, but they were definitely a serious opponent, and there was a need for the Americans to hurry up due to the large number of their civilians in the hands of the enemy. Also, there was always a possibility of a larger Cuban intervention.

The full extension and purposes of the Cuban involvement on Grenada, however, became known only after the US troops captured the local headquarters and most of the Cuban and Soviet "instructors": the island was already used as a base for training of different Latin American terrorists, and there were considerable connections also to different countries of the Warsaw Pact. This revelation caused much damage to the Cuban influence in the area.

From the purely military standpoint, "Urgent Fury" was used as a proof for different concepts, tactics, and new weapons systems (including the introduction of the UH-60A helicopters and McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender tankers in combat operations) of the US military, which was still recovering from the trauma of the Vietnam War, and provided a number of highly valuable lessons for the future – which were to be used during similar operations in or against Libya, in 1986, Panama, 1989, and Haiti, in 1994, but also during the II Persian Gulf War, in 1990-1991. In fact, being the first large-scale US military operation since the system of professional military service was introduced, and the first operation that saw the participation of the newly-established Special Operations Command, "Urgent Fury" was highly important as a wake-up call for the whole US military: its success was a huge morale booster after the sinister post-Vietnam times, and a perfect illustration of the US capability to project power in support of the national policy.




Post Scriptum

The fate of the An-2 and An-26 captured by US troops at at Point Salines was established with the help of a series of photos and a video kindly provided from the private collection of Mr. Sander Peteers.

This former Cubana Airlines An-2 captured at Point Salines is in really sad condition. The colors are faded, most of the skin on the wings missing. Part of the serial can still be read: "CN-L-12?4"...


- the construction number remains unknown, however.... (Sander Peteers)


More than 15 years after the US intervention on Grenada, the Cubana Airlines An-2 and An-26 captured at Point Salines airfield are still there - now only slightly more than complete wracks.... In the rear a part of the runway of Point Salines can be seen - together with cows and goats grazing! Certainly, the airfield is not as heavily used as during the US intervention in October 1983... (Sander Peteers)


This former Cubana Airliners An-26 is not only heavily weathered now....


- but also several parts from the aircraft are missing: probably taken away by suvenir-hunters... (Sander Peteers)





Sources & Bibliography


Except for own research and contributions by Dr. Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, following sources of reference were used:

- GRENADA 1983, by Lee E. Russel & M. Albert Mendez (from Osprey Men-at-Arms Series No.159) Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1985, (ISBN: 0-85045-583-9)

- Different articles in weekly "Der Spiegel", from 1983 and 1984.





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Fuerza Aerea Colombiana
Forca Aerea Brasileira
Drug-Busting Operations Air-to-Air Victories
Central & South American Air-to-Air Victories
Cuban Air-to-Air Victories
Peru vs. Ecuador; Alto-Cenepa War, 1995
Venezuelan Coup Attempt, 1992
Panama, 1989; Operation "Just Cause"
Grenada, 1983: Operation "Urgent Fury"
El Salvador, 1980-1992
Nicaragua, 1980-1988
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969: The 100-Hour War
Cuban Crisis, 1962: ORBATs and OPLANs
Clandestine US Operations: Cuba, 1961, Bay of Pigs
Argentina, 1955-1965
Guatemala since 1954
Costa Rican Civil Wars: 1948 & 1955
Dominican Republic since 1945