On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada. It was a "no-notice" invasion for the U.S. troops that deployed there. Here are eight facts about this small but potent combat operation.
1. Urgent Fury avenged the death of Grenada's Marxist Prime Minister.
Maurice Bishop (center) with Cuban leader Fidel Castro (right).
Maurice Bishop came to power after a coup in 1979. His revolutionary government banned other political parties and was led by a Marxist committee. When Bishop refused to share power four years later, he was arrested and executed.
2. The U.S. was invited to intervene.
The Governor-General of Grenada, Paul Scoon, was also arrested during the coup and held under house arrest. When Bishop was executed, Scoon understandably freaked out a little. As Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's appointed representative, he had little real authority, except for a constitutional provision that allowed him to appeal to other nations for help. He soon asked the U.S. to intervene. When the invasion began, Navy SEALs came to his aid.
3. It was a Coalition invasion force.
Forces from OECS member countries landing at the Point Salines airfield. (DoD photo)
The invasion was led by the United States, of course, but other Eastern Caribbean countries were also in the invasion force. the Regional Security System was formed from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines all assisted in the takeover of Grenada's government. Grenada was also a member of the OECS before the 1983 coup.
4. Rangers led the way in Grenada.
Rangers from C Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment during Operation Urgent Fury, Oct. 25, 1983. (DoD photo)
The 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions along with special operations troops and Air Force Combat Controllers captured Point Salines on Oct. 25, 1983 in a large-scale combat jump. By Nov. 3, the invasion was over and hostilities ended.
5. U.S. troops faced Cuban soldiers for the first time.
1st Platoon, B Co, 1st Ranger Battalion with a flag from Cuban barracks captured during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. (Photo by Bryan Staggs, who captured the flag and is standing in the front row, right)
Cuban-American relations soured after Fidel Castro's Communist takeover. Events like the 1962 Missile Crisis and Cuban support for Communist ventures abroad only exacerbated the relationship, but the two forces never engaged each other in direct combat – until Grenada. Of the 772 Cuban troops deployed there, Havana suffered 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 captured.
6. Only one military movie features Urgent Fury.
The story of surrounded U.S. troops on the island who called back to the States to get some artillery support was not only true, it was retold on the silver screen. In "Heartbreak Ridge" it was Gunnery Sgt. Highway's Marines who called back. The SEALs say it was one of theirs, while others believe it was an Army officer.
7. The UH-60 saw action for the first time.
Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters prepare to touch down next to the Point Salines Airport runway during Operation Urgent Fury. (DoD photo)
It was a trial by fire for the UH-60, as the now-iconic Black Hawk helicopter was first introduced by the Army in 1979. Urgent Fury would be the first operation use of the aircraft against an enemy in combat. The new aircraft was "faster and quieter" than previous transports and was found to be a "more reliable platform than the UH-1."
8. It was the first joint operation since Vietnam.
As the story of a U.S. troop calling for air support with a payphone demonstrates, the "joint" aspect of the operation did not go well. The operation was a success despite the failures of service interoperability. Failures in command and control highlighted the need for changes. The Goldwater-Nichols Act restructured the U.S. military based partly on the Grenada invasion's "deficiencies in the planning and preparation for employment of U.S. military forces in times of crisis."