30 Years Later: Remembering the invasion of Grenada and Castro’s painful defeat
Thirty years ago, American troops invaded Grenada and not only liberated the island from a Marxist totalitarian regime, it dealt a painful blow to Cuba's Castro dictatorship.
U.S. invasion of Grenada, 30 years later
As U.S. and Cuban troops fought in the tiny island of Grenada 30 years ago, Havana’s official news media reported that Cuba’s “glorious combatants” were “at this moment immolating themselves for the homeland, wrapped in the Cuban flag.”
That was not true. But that apparently was the order that Havana had given to the detachment of more than 700 Cuban “soldier-bricklayers” building an airport on Grenada.
A U.S military unit monitoring radio traffic overheard a Havana transmission ordering the Cubans to “fight to the last man,” said Chris Simmons, then an Army lieutenant who landed in Grenada on the first day of combat — Oct. 25, 1983.
The U.S. monitors were supporting another American unit tasked with capturing leaders of the Cuban detachment, Simmons said. But the Cubans managed to seek asylum in the Soviet Union’s embassy.
Cuban ruler Fidel Castro was not pleased.
His top commander in Grenada, Col. Pedro Tortoló Comas, was sent to Angola and was last confirmed driving a taxi in Havana. And his ambassador to the former British colony, Julian Torres Rizo, now lists himself as a Havana tourist guide.
The invasion, Operation Urgent Fury, now is largely remembered as the only time when U.S. and Cuban troops fought each other directly, despite more than 50 years of hostile relations – 30 of them during the Cold War.
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Remembering The Invasion of Grenada 30 Years On
One night in late October, 1983, I listened to a BBC short wave broadcast reporting that the United States was about to invade Grenada. I chuckled, said to myself, “Crazy Brits,” and went to sleep. But the crazy Brit was right: in the first military deployment since Vietnam, US forces swarmed over the small Caribbean island (population roughly 120,000), flew some American medical students home, and removed the Marxist-Leninist regime of the New Jewel Movement.Several ships participated in Operation Urgent Fury, which sent a Marine amphibious group to the north, and Rangers from the 82nd Airborne to the southern part of the island. Contingents from neighboring countries were also involved. Despite the usual snafus, Urgent Fury was operationally and politically successful. The students kissed the American runway, Ronald Reagan’s image was considerably enhanced, and a year later a new Grenadian government was elected in free elections.