Remembering The Invasion of Grenada 30 Years On

Roundup: Talking About History
tags: Ronald Reagan, Grenada



Michael Ledeen is a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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.

The operation had some hilarious moments, of which my favorite concerns the Brits. They had a Governor General by the name of Paul Scoon, and had equipped him with an encryption code and a secret cable address for use in dire emergencies.  In the fall of 1983, all hell broke loose in Grenada.  Scoon took refuge in his house, fished out the code, and sent an urgent message to the secret address.  But years had passed, and the secret address was no longer a cover for British security officers, but now the honest telex number of a manufacturer of cardboard boxes.  When they received an incomprehensible cable from Grenada, they just ignored it.  All of which explains why Margaret Thatcher was so surprised at the American invasion.  She remarked at the time that she hadn’t heard anything about events in Grenada....




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