26 October 2013

30th Anniversary: Invasion of Grenada

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the Invasion of Grenada

Operation Urgent Fury, was a 1983 United States-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of about 91,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela, that resulted in a U.S. victory within a matter of weeks. Triggered by a bloody military coup which had ousted a four-year revolutionary government, the invasion resulted in a restoration of constitutional government. Media outside the U.S. covered the invasion in a negative outlook despite the OAS request for intervention (on the request of the U.S. government), Soviet and Cuban presence on the island and the presence of American medical students at the True Blue Medical Facility.

There a long and excellent article at Small Wars Journal about How Grenada Changed How America Goes to War.
When you read about the planning leading up to Grenada, you'll be astounded that the US succeeded at all...

In this immediate period, the JCS passed out two parallel planning requests to two separate organizations with only inferred or non-existant guidance to jointly coordinate-Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and Atlantic Command (LantCom). JSOC because an actual invasion might include the new SOF elements and LantCom because Grenada fell into its geographical area of responsibility. Each began planning in isolation of the other and each planned for forces without regard for the other. In neither organization, until almost the point of execution, was the 82d Airborne or XVIII Airborne Corps engaged or mentioned.

The task each headquarters assumed was the capture of the Point Saline Airfield as well as likely nodes of government. The existence and safety of the students, primarily American citizens, at St Georges Medical University was initially not an issue.

Earlier, in 1979, the democratic government of Grenada was overthrown in a coup and replaced by a socialist dictatorship. On 14 October 1983, an internal power struggle resulted in the death of the original coup leader, Maurice Bishop and his replacement by his chief lieutenant Bernard Coard and his enforcer Gen Hudson Austin, both professed communists. Sir Paul Scoon, the UK Governor General, was placed under house arrest.

Despite this evolution, a US-based expatriate medical school, St Georges Medical University, continued to operate from several campus’s on the main island of Grenada. However, by the October coup, students and faculty became increasingly alarmed about the thuggish nature of local security elements. On 20 October, Hudson Austin announced a curfew for the students and the entire population, brought in additional guards and accused the school of spy activities. Numerous students called their friends and families and indicated their lives were in danger.

At this point, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States as well as the governments of Barbados and Jamaica asked the US to intervene. Three days later, 23 October, the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed with a large loss of life. The Joint Chiefs of Staff began intensive planning resulting in an execute order for the invasion of Grenada on 25 October 1983. This would be the first significant military action for the US since its departure from Vietnam in 1973. This order involved a Joint effort by both elements of Lantcom and JSOC together-a requirement not previously expressed. Lantcom would be in overall command-sort of-and include the Marines afloat who were headed to Beirut to relieve the just-bombed barracks elements. Lantcom would also have augmentations from the 82d Airborne Division and follow-on forces from XVIII Airborne Corps. This inclusion was unknown until approximately two weeks prior to execution.

In sum, though two headquarters were charged with essentially the same task, each worked with forces not known to the other and planned in isolation. Further, key elements of the final plan (82d Airborne) were not informed of their engagement until two weeks prior to execution. The chain of command was imprecise and no Joint communications system other than ad hoc was established. The mission to rescue and recover the medical school students was a last minute addition to the 82d task list.

What are your recollections of the invasion and aftermath? And has their ever been a worse earnest 'war' movie than Heartbreak Ridge?

By: Brant

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Commo on USS SAMPSON (DDG-10). We were in the area when the invasion went down and got tasked to join in. Steamed down at 25 knots practicing NGFS all the way. Got there to find that it was all over. Became the USN on scene when the Amphibs pulled out. Had a portable satcom to communicate with HHQ - had to turn the ship just the right way to get comms. Army batteries, so had to go to the beach to pick up spares. They were already selling commemorative t-shirts...still have mine...wore it to an 80's themed Supply Corp birthday bash this year.
Al Berke