Meanwhile, the 2nd Platoon reached the True Blue campus and rescued 138 medical students. Once again intelligence lapses were encountered. The Rangers were told that an additional 224 students were under guard in a beachfront hotel behind enemy positions near the Grand Anse campus about three kilometers northwest. The Rangers were unaware of the Grand Anse campus. And, when those students were rescued the next day, the Rangers were informed of a third campus on the Lance aux Epines peninsula where 202 more students were held.
At the same time that the 2nd Platoon was freeing American students, the rest of Taylor’s men were busy overcoming the defenders. Elements of Grenadian infantry in BTR armored personnel carriers arrived at the east end of the airfield and encountered a mixed group of units from both the 1st and 2nd battalions. They were met by recoilless rifle gunners from 1/75 and 2/75 as well as fire from M60 machine guns from both battalions. Within minutes the attack was over, with the Rangers having eliminated the threat.
Elsewhere, units of 2/75 quickly cleared the area west and north of the airfield up to Canoe Bay. A Cuban ZSU-23 antiaircraft gun was captured and used to support the Rangers’ advance. Company B was ordered to take the hills on the west side of the airfield that dominated the control tower and terminal. A sharp action ensued, with the Rangers coming under heavy fire. The company’s first sergeant led a team that succeeded in killing two Cubans and capturing another 28. Ranger snipers took out the Cuban mortar positions.
Operation Urgent Fury had cost the U.S. forces 19 killed and 116 wounded. The Cubans lost 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 captured. The Grenadian forces suffered 45 killed and 358 wounded, with at least 24 Grenadian civilians killed and an unknown number wounded.
In the last major action around the airfield, the first sergeant grabbed a Cuban prisoner and ordered him to go into the Cuban camp and get the group to surrender “or else.” Within minutes, the Rangers accepted the surrender of about 175 Cubans. By noon, the airfield was secure and transports carrying vehicles, supplies, and other assault equipment were landing. Before the day was over, the 75th Rangers had occupied the high ground around the airfield and the next stage of their role in Operation Urgent Fury was well under way.
Combat action on the island concluded on Oct. 28 and, after a new government was installed in mid-December, the last American troops left. Operation Urgent Fury had cost the U.S. forces 19 killed and 116 wounded. The Cubans lost 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 captured. The Grenadian forces suffered 45 killed and 358 wounded, with at least 24 Grenadian civilians killed and an unknown number wounded.
Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr., was candid about the operation’s failings, and in an interview on the television show Meet the Press on Nov. 6, 1983, he said, “We planned the operation in a very short period of time – in about 48 hours. We planned it with insufficient intelligence for the type of operation we wanted to conduct. … Things did go wrong, but generally the operation was a success.”
Perhaps the greatest success of Operation Urgent Fury was its legacy.
Perhaps the greatest success of Operation Urgent Fury was its legacy. As important as the ground victory in Grenada was, it became secondary to what happened three years later as a result of the lessons learned in October 1983 – the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.
This article was first published in U.S. Special Operations Command – The First 20 Years.