The so-called “Cold War” between the forces of democracy and communism/socialism was often very hot in various places around the world. Korea and Vietnam were among the hottest battles of this period between the end of WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the early 90s. Among the smaller outbreaks of hostilities were places like Panama and Grenada. October 25 marks the 37th anniversary of Operation Urgent Fury to liberate the island of Grenada located in the southeastern Caribbean, just 100 miles north of Venezuela.
Grenada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1974 and became a member of the Commonwealth. In 1979 the small island nation started to turn toward a more revolutionary socialism. The Cubans became involved in the island both politically and socially. By 1983, the Cuban influence and Cuban military forces had become dominant in island affairs and supported a coup d’etat.
Grenada, with the material aid and military support of the Cubans was, among other things, building an airstrip on the island that was seen as more of a military airstrip than a civilian airport project. President Ronald Reagan and his military advisors, as well as several of the neighboring Caribbean states, saw this as a dangerous military provocation supported by the Communist Cuban military and decided to confront and eliminate that perceived threat. If you remember, there was a medical college on the island where many American students were studying as well.
Operation Urgent Fury was commanded by General Norman Schwarzkopf, who would become more well known a few years later as the commander of the quick, decisive, allied efforts to liberate Kuwait from its Iraqis invaders from Aug. 2, 1990 to Feb. 28, 1991, in what became known as The Gulf War.
On Oct. 25, 1983, Peace Force troops from the U.S. and seven Caribbean nations began Operation Urgent Fury to liberate the island from Cuban and ultimately Soviet influence. The American forces were made up of a Marine Amphibious Unit, two Army Ranger Battalions, Navy aircraft carrier USS Independence with its battle group, Air Force Spectre gunships, and a handful of Special Operations forces.
A stiff resistance was put up by the Grenadian and Cuban forces in several instances. As in all such actions, there were costs. American forces suffered losses during Operation Urgent Fury. In the end, 19 Americans were killed in action and 116 were wounded. But their efforts brought the return of democratic government to the small island nation. There were successful democratic elections held in 1984 on Grenada and the nation continues to hold democratic elections to this day.
The Veterans Site honors those who gave their last full measure during Operation Urgent Fury from Oct. 25-29, 1983. We must never forget the costs of war to those who fight them and especially to their families. We will never forget!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.