Photo above: President Ronald Reagan. Courtesy Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Naval Photographic Center. Right: IBM PC circuitboard for the 5150. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
U.S. Timeline - The 1980s
The Reagan Revolution
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1983 - Detail
October 25, 1983 - The United States invasion of Grenada occurs at the request of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to depose the Marxist regime.
It may not have been the largest battle waged by American forces around the world, or within their hemisphere, or even the most important Battle for Grenada that tacitly involved the United States. However, the Invasion of Grenada in the fall of 1983 was an action to promote democracy within that hemisphere and insure the viability of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States without undue Marxist influence. The island of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, south of Puerto Rico and north of the South American coast, had a population of ninety-one thousand and had been an independent nation, formerly British, since 1974. It was small, only one hundred and thirty-five square miles of land. They did not have a lot of experience in democracy and by 1983, on October 16, were being ruled by a Revolutionary Military Council. That council and its advocates had executed the previous Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, himself a Marxist after a coup in 1979, six others, and killed dozens of protesters. Bishop had established some positive changes in the lives of the Grenada public, but never held democratic elections, as promised. He also supported Soviet policies and close relations with Cuba.
The United States, through its involvement in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, did not wait long. They had never liked the construction of Point Salinas Airport, with its nine thousand foot runway that could accommodate large Soviet and Cuban planes. Six days after the executions, on October 25, 1983, they invaded, along with troops from Jamaica and the Regional Security System (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis). The object was to restore a Democratic government to Grenada and one stated purpose by the Reagan Administration for swift action was to prevent the possibility that six to eight hundred American medical students at the St. George's University School of Medicine in Grenada might be subject to a hostage situation similar to the Iranian Hostage Crises.
At 5:00 a.m. on October 25, 1983, the invasion forces left Barbados under the name Operation Urgent Fury. It was the first major U.S. Military action since the Vietnam War. Seven thousand U.S. troops, and three hundred from other Caribbean nations, encountered one thousand five hundred Grenadian military and seven hundred Cuban nationals. The Cuban nationals were instructed to only fire in self-defense, as Castro himself had condemned the coup publicly. Privately, who really knows his position. On the first day, the invading military force captured Point Salinas Airport. Within three days, the island was essentially under full American and OECS forces. Casualties included nineteen killed among U.S. forces, Grenada 45, Cuban 25, Civilians 24.
Outcome and Support for the Invasion
The international community did not agree with the action with the United Nations General Assembly voting 108 to 9 with 27 abstentions to condemn the invasion on November 2, 1983. The United States disagreed with its veto in the U.N. Security Council preventing implementation of the condemnation below.
U.N. Resolution - "The General Assembly.
Considering the statements made before the Security Council in connection with the situation in Grenada.
Recalling the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
Recalling also the Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States.
Reaffirming the sovereign and inalienable right of Grenada freely to determine its own political, economic and social system, and to develop its international relations without outside intervention, interference, subversion, coercion or threat in any form whatsoever.
Deeply deploring the events in Grenada which led to the killing of the Prime Minister, Mr. Maurice Bishop, and other prominent Grenadians.
Bearing in mind that, in accordance with Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obliged to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of the Charter.
Gravely concerned at the military intervention taking place and determined to ensure a speedy return to normalcy in Grenada.
Conscious of the need for States to show consistent respect for the principles of the Charter.
1. Deeply deplores the armed intervention in Grenada, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that state;
2. Deplores the death of innocent civilians resulting from the armed intervention;
3. Calls upon all States to show the strictest respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Grenada;
4. Calls for an immediate cessation of the armed intervention and the immediate withdrawal of the foreign troops from Grenada;
5. Requests that free elections be organized as rapidly as possible to enable the people of Grenada to choose its government democratically;
6. Request the Secretary-General as a matter of urgency to assess the situation and to report back to the General Assembly within seventy-two hours.
43rd plenary meeting
2 November 1983
Despite the actions at the United Nations and the disapproval of most nations, the American public (63% in polls after the invasion) and the people of Grenada supported its action. Today, October 25 is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day on the island. Democratic elections have been held since 1984.
The First Battle for Grenada, American Revolution
While the 1983 invasion of Grenada may be the best known of American themed battles in the Caribbean nation, it was, perhaps, not the most important, although its former, 1779, battle did not include any United States Continental Army troops.
The island had a tumultuous history upon European colonization. In June 1609, the first attempt to colonize Grenada came from twenty-four British subjects, but was destroyed by December of that year by the native population, with few survivors returning to England. Forty years later, over two hundred French colonists from Martinique built a fortification in St. Georges Harbor and established a peace treaty with the native population. That peace did not last, with war lasting five years before the French won. It became a French colony after that, associated with Martinique until March 4, 1764 when the British invaded during the Seven Years Wars, in the American theater known as the French and Indian War. The island was ceded to the British during the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
With the naval battles of the American Revolution taking place around the world, the French under Admiral comte D'Estaing began attacking Caribbean British possessions. With French forces already in control of Dominica since late 1778, D'Estaing captured Saint Vincent on June 18, 1779. Two weeks later, the French attacked Grenada on July 2-4 with two thousand one hundred men and twenty-five ships. British fortifications on Hospital Hill overlooking the capital of St. Georges were captured. On July 6, the British fleet under Vice Admiral Sir John Byron arrived to recapture the island. In a battle off the coast of Grenada, the French fleet, twenty-five ships with 1,468 guns, defeated a disorganized attack by the British Royal Navy, twenty-one ships with 1,516 guns. For the remainder of the American Revolution, France was in control of both Grenada and Saint Vincent. Upon the Treaty of Paris in 1783, ending the American Revolution, both islands were awarded back to Great Britain.
Photo above: Montage of photos, left to right; Three U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopters at Point Salinas Airport on October 25, 1983, SPC Douglas Ide, Department of Defense. Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense via Wikipedia Commons; Eastern Caribbean Defense Force, 1983, TSGT M.J. Creen. Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense via Wikipedia Commons. Below: Prise de I'Isle de la Grenade, Invasion of French forces against the British in the American Revolution, circa 1784, Francois Godefroy and Nicolas Ponce. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: United Nations; "The US Invasion of Grenada," 2003, Stephen Zunes, Global Policy Forum; "Battle of Grenada," 2016, Weaponsandwarfare.com; Wikipedia Commons.
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