Defense Media Network

With Operation Urgent Fury, America Took a Stand Against Soviet and Cuban Influence in the Caribbean

Grenada invasion marks 30th anniversary

It has been 30 years since Operation Urgent Fury, one of the biggest military operations in the Western Hemisphere took place in one of its smallest countries.

A military coup led to the abduction and assassination of Grenada’s Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and control of the government was seized by the “Revolutionary Military Council.” The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, as well as Grenada’s neighbors, Barbados and Jamaica, asked the United States for help. The ensuing U.S. “intervention” involved a joint task force of nearly 8,000 personnel.

Operation Urgent Fury

A U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter on a flight over Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury, Oct. 25, 1983. The Black Hawk made its combat debut during Urgent Fury. U.S. Department of Defense photo

Urgent Fury was conducted by Joint Task Force (JTF) 120, which included the U.S. Army’s Rapid Deployment Force, Marines, the USS Independence Carrier Battle Group, U.S. Navy SEALS, and U.S. Air Force fighters and logistics aircraft. It was America’s first major military operation since the end of the Vietnam War.

It was America’s first major military operation since the end of the Vietnam War.

Grenada is a tiny country of about 133 square miles, making it about twice the size of Washington, D.C.

Operation Urgent Fury

American students at St. George’s University on Grenada surround a U.S. soldier after his arrival at the campus with peacekeeping forces during Operation Urgent Fury, Oct. 25, 1983. The U.S. mission was aimed at protecting the lives of U.S. students on Grenada. U.S. Department of Defense photo

The mission of JTF 120 was “to protect innocent lives (among them several hundred Americans attending medical school in Grenada); prevent the chaos from escalating; and help restore government institutions and rule of law in Grenada.”

The Reagan administration took a stand against Soviet and Cuban influence in the Caribbean.

With the “no-notice” joint force contingency operation, the Reagan administration took a stand against Soviet and Cuban influence in the Caribbean.

Operation Urgent Fury

The U.S. received help from the Caribbean Peace Force during Operation Urgent Fury, Nov. 3, 1983. U.S. Department of Defense photo

The U.S. forces, joined by 300 members of the Caribbean Peace Force, fielded from Jamaica, Barbados and the eastern Caribbean, were opposed by the Marxist People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), with Cuban advisers, armed with Soviet weapons. Nineteen Americans were killed during Urgent Fury.

Bishop’s revolutionary rival, Bernard Coard, was more extreme, and led a violent ultra-left counter-revolution, killing Bishop and many of his supporters in the Revolutionary cabinet.

Prime Minister Bishop was himself a revolutionary, having overthrown the government of Eric Gairy. Bishop’s revolutionary rival, Bernard Coard, was more extreme, and led a violent ultra-left counter-revolution, killing Bishop and many of his supporters in the Revolutionary cabinet.

Operation Urgent Fury

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter hovers above the ground near a Soviet-made ZU-23 anti-aircraft gun prior to picking it up during Operation Urgent Fury, in October 1983. U.S. Department of Defense photo

The anniversary was marked by an Oct. 24 ceremony, with officials from the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the U.S. Embassy in Grenada, and leaders from Grenada and its eastern Caribbean neighbors. The date is celebrated each year as Grenada’s Thanksgiving.

Urgent Fury exposed difficulties in joint service coordination and led to the establishment of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization act of 1986.

Urgent Fury exposed difficulties in joint service coordination and led to the establishment of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization act of 1986. The exclusion of media resulted in the creation of the U.S. Department of Defense National Media Pool.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...