of Grenada--Jump under 500 feet with U.S. Army Rangers below Cuban anti-aircraft
guns! Enjoy reading about the first victory since Vietnam in the Cold
On October 19, 1983, Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and
a number of his top aides were executed by the People's Revolutionary Army
(PRA), on orders from a radical new political group known as the "Revolutionary
Military Council." Intending to replace Bishop's Marxist government with
an even more virulent Marxist regime, General Hudson Austin and his sixteen
member RMC quickly moved to assume control of the island-nation. Fears of
the possibility of a new Soviet ally so close to U.S. shores (a fear bolstered
by the recent construction of a 10,000 foot runway capable of handling the
largest military transports), and the fact that hundreds of U.S. citizens
resided in Grenada and might possibly be in danger, caused President Reagan
to act to prevent a potentially grave situation from developing. He authorized
the U.S. military to intervene effect a noncombatant evacuation operation
(NEO) to rescue the American students and, in no small part, to restore a
more mainstream government on Grenada.
The U.S. Special Operations (spec ops) community was still in shock
and turmoil after marine-piloted navy RH-53D mine-sweeping helicopters ruined
the Iranian hostage rescue attempt in 1980. Urgent Fury was a chance for
spec ops leaders to restore faith in special operations warfare. The mission
included all the current warriors of the Special Operations Command: U.S.
Army Rangers supported by the 82nd Airborne Division; Navy Seals; Army "Delta
Force"; Air Force Special Tactics Combat Control Teams (CCT), and Squadrons
with MC-130 Combat Talon and AC-130 Spectre gunships with the chance inclusion
of the 22nd marine amphibious unit (MAU) originally headed to relieve the
Battalion Landing Team packed inside one building in Lebanon, that ironically
the next day allowed suicide terrorists to wipe them out in a truck bomb
blast. All of these units were all deployed on the Grenada Task Force.
Although the invasion officially started on Oct 25th, D-Day, the
first troops to enter on Grenada's territory were the Navy SEa Air Land teams
or (Seals). On Oct 23rd, Navy Seal Team 6 launched a mission to reconnoiter
the Point Salines airport. They were tasked to gather intelligence on the
condition of the runway for an Airborne assault by U.S. Army Rangers. They
were also to place signal beacons on the ground to guide the Rangers to the
correct target landing zone (LZ). The Seals static-line parachuted from the
tailgate of a C-130 cargo plane. The 11 Seals, 1 USAF Combat Controller and
three Zodiac F470 rubber boats exited the aircraft, over open ocean, from
an altitude of 500 ft. Four of the Seals, overburdened with excessive equipment
and tangled in their parachutes, drowned upon landing in the water. After
a brief search for the missing Seals, the remaining Seal boat teams resumed
their mission. Before they could gain the beach, they were forced to evade
an enemy patrol boat. During the evasion, the Zodiac's gasoline-powered outboard
motor was swamped and refused to start. The Seals were forced to abort the
mission and paddle to a pickup point.
The next night, the Seals were deployed again on the same mission.
This time they launched over sea in the same Zodiacs as before. As they reached
the beach, they encountered a vicious surf which swamped the boats. The Seals
lost most of their equipment and were again forced to abort. They returned
to their pickup point without gathering any hard intel on the runway conditions
or placing the landing beacons for the Rangers.
On the early morning of the 25th, D-Day, another team from Seal 6
was tasked with securing the Radio Free Grenada transmitting station. The
Seal Team was to capture and hold the radio station for use by an Army
Psychological Operations unit. The Seals inserted at dawn via Blackhawk
helicopter. The team seized the station without sizable resistance, but the
opposition forces soon counter-attacked with BTR armored cars. The Seals
were forced to destroy the transmitter and escape to the ocean. The mission
was considered a success by destroying the enemy's ability to use the
transmitter. However, the mission should not have been tasked to Seal Team
6. The Seals are not designed to seize and hold a position. They are structured
to seek a target, destroy it decisively, and then disappear into the ocean.
They are not equipped to fight a long term battle, especially in daylight
hours. In our opinion, this mission should have been given to U.S. Army Special
Forces or Rangers instead of the Seals.
The third Seal mission involved Lt. Mike Walsh's Seal Team 4 performing
a beach reconnaissance. This was an example of a perfectly designed Seal
mission with perfect execution. Seal 4 was to recon a beach near Pearls Airport
for a potential marine amphibious invasion. Seals are specifically trained
to measure water depths, analyze the beach for use by tracked vehicles, and
estimate enemy defenses. Seal 4 launched in the middle of the night on the
24th. They moved in F470 Zodiac boats over sea to the objective. The weather
was stormy with heavy rain and swells in the sea. The Seals avoided detection
of multiple enemy patrol boats and reached the beach. Two scout swimmers
were sent to check on enemy defenses before deploying the team. The scouts
reported that the enemy forces had just left the beach due to the heavy rains
and no one remained. The Seals landed on the beach and conducted a "by-the-book"
recon. They determined the beach would not support an amphibious landing
by the marines and sent back the codes "Walking Track Shoes" to notify the
marines that an AIR insertion would be required. The Seals stayed in place
on the beach until daylight and were relieved by the marines after they had
secured the Pearls Airport.
The final Seal mission was the rescue of Governor general Sir Paul
Scoon, (Grenada is under the protection of Great Britain, at least in name)
and his wife. This was a fitting Seal mission called a "Snatch and Grab".
The plan called for the Seals to insert near the mansion by hovering helicopter
fast rope, secure Governor General Scoon and his wife, and evacuate them
and the team by helicopter to safety. Unfortunately, the mission unfolded
badly. The insertion by the Seals went as planned and the Seals seized the
mansion with no opposition. But, while the Seals were identifying Mr. Scoon,
an enemy counter-attack was organized using BTR-60 armored cars and the Seals
were pinned down inside the building. A firefight started as enemy Soldiers
tried to rush the mansion. A Seal sniper engaged the troops from the mansion
roof and killed 21 enemy Soldiers and drove them back. The Seals were trapped
in the mansion for nearly 24 hours until they were relieved by a small marine
company-sized unit the following day. In the attempts to rescue the pinned
down Seals, two marine AH-1T Cobra helicopters were shot down, killing 3
marines, and reportedly a UH-60 Blackhawk was also downed killing one Seal
and one Army officer. General Scoon, his wife, and nine aides were all safely
evacuated without injury. Although the Seals were not equipped to fight a
sustained battle (no M72 LAW rockets to counter enemy armored vehicles),
they relied on their training and tactical positioning to successfully complete
U.S. Army Rangers were the key to the overall success of the Grenada
invasion. The Rangers were tasked with securing the Salines Airport and the
True Blue Campus of the Grand Anse Medical School. The Rangers initial plan
was to airland three C-130 Hercules aircraft directly on the runway, disembark,
and commence direct action contact with opposition forces to secure the airfield.
Upon securing the airstrip, the 82nd Airborne Infantry would airland and
relieve them, moving out to control the southern part of the island. The
Rangers would then send a company to the True Blue Campus to secure the safety
of the American students housed there.
The Rangers had little time to prepare for their role in Urgent Fury,
the invasion of Grenada. Within hours of receiving orders to move, Ranger
units were marshaling at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, prepared to board
C-130s and MC-130s for the ride to Grenada. Their first objective was Point
Salines airfield, located on the island's most southwestern point. While
securing the airfield, Rangers were to secure the True Blue Campus at Salines,
where American medical students were in residence. As quickly as possible,
Ranger units were then to take the Army camp at Calivigny.
Since the Navy SEAL team was unable to get ashore; they were to have
provided intelligence on the airfield at Salines. H-hour, originally scheduled
during darkness, was moved several times until morning twilight. In the lead
MC-130s there were problems with the inertial navigation equipment. Since
there were no hatch mount antennas on the cargo doors of the aircraft,
communications to Ranger units were delayed while passing through Air Force
While in the air, the Rangers were notified of photographic intelligence
indicating obstructions on the field. Instead of landing, the majority of
transport would have to drop all the Rangers at Salines so the runway could
be cleared. Due to the Seals not placing the beacons or getting any intelligence
on the runway condition, and MC-130 Combat Talon sensors indicating the runway
was blocked, the Rangers decided to parachute directly onto the airstrip.
The Rangers performed a tricky in-flight Parachute Rigging in preparation
of the jump. The Rangers would be jumping without reserve parachutes from
an altitude of below 500 ft. A mix-up occurred in the air when the lead plane's
navigation instruments failed. The aircraft slowed it's approach allowing
the other aircraft to pass it by. At dawn, the first Rangers jumped in a
mass tactical formation and landed on the runway. Unfortunately, the first
group of jumpers on the drop zone (DZ) was the command and staff elements.
The assault force was a half hour late arriving at the DZ. The staff element
came under immediate fire from a small force of Cuban engineering reservists.
In some aircraft the men were told to remove their harness, rucksack,
and main and reserve parachutes. These items were placed in kit bags and
moved forward to facilitate off-loading troops and cargo. But before long,
the USAF Loadmasters were yelling, "Only thirty minutes fuel left. Rangers
are fighting. Jump in Twenty minutes."
These Rangers now had to re-rig for the drop, unpacking non-essential
equipment and pulling on parachutes. Rucksacks had to be hooked under the
reserve pack and weapons strapped to the left side. Under these conditions
it was not possible for the jumpmaster to check each man, so buddy rigging
Aboard the lead MC-130, navigation equipment failed and the pilot
reported he could not guarantee finding the landing zone. Rain squalls made
it impossible to employ a lead change, so both lead aircraft pulled away
to the south. As the Rangers approached the target, the aircraft were out
of assigned order and the planned order of arrival was no longer possible.
This meant that the attached 82nd Airborne Division Combat Engineer runway
clearing team would not be the first on the field. The Rangers then requested
a mass parachute assault, a contingency previously planned, so that only
the order of exit from the aircraft would be affected, but the Air Force
would not conduct a mass drop.
Despite all these difficulties, the Rangers drove on and at 0534
the first Rangers began dropping at Salines: a platoon of "B" 1/75 and the
Battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC), followed almost 25 minutes later
by part of "A" 1/75. Over a half hour later the rest of "A" 1/75, minus seven
men were over Salines. It was now 0634, but the remaining men of 1/75 would
not be on the ground until 07:05.
Men of 1/75 assembled on the east end of the runway. They were short
"C" 1/75, which had been sent with sixty Special Operations Detachment Delta
(Delta Force) troops to take the Richmond Hill prison and after that mission
was aborted due to no one to rescue, so Delta operators scoured the surrounding
hills to help secure them for the drop. The Ranger battalions were already
operating below strength. One reason for this seems to have been the fact
that a limited number of aircraft and aircrews were trained for night operations.
Over one and a half hours elapsed from the first drop of 1/75 until
the last unit was on the ground shortly after seven in the morning. These
men jumped from 500 feet so they would be in the air between 12 and 15 seconds
and under the line of sight of Cuban anti-aircraft guns. Their drop zone
was very narrow because there was water on the north and south sides only
a few meters from the runway.
At 07:07 the 2nd Battalion began to drop. For several hours their
aircraft had orbited, waiting to unload and refuel. They dropped in a much
shorter period, and all but one man was safely on the ground. One Ranger
broke his leg, and one Ranger's static line became tangled as he exited the
aircraft, dragging him against the tail of the plane before he was hauled
back aboard. 2/75 assembled on the western end of the runway.
Command Sergeant Major Eric Haney and Delta Operator who fought on
Grenada writes about the 1983 invasion of Grenada in his superb book, "Inside
Delta Force" on pages 302 and 303:
"We had just gotten to the top when someone shouted, 'There are the
I turned around in time to see a line of C-130s coming in low from
the east. But as they approached the leading edge of the airfield, the first
two planes were plastered with automatic cannon fire. The lead plane broke
away, but the others kept coming, and then you could see the Rangers pouring
out the jump doors and into the sky. They were jumping at such a low altitude
that their parachutes opened only a few seconds before they hit the ground.
Goddam, what a stirring sight!
We quickly got out some air-ground signal panels to let them know
we were friendly and fired over the next ridge toward those 23-millimeters
to give the gunners a little something to worry about. The first pass of
planes had dumped about a company of Rangers and now the planes were circling
and heading back for the second drop. Rangers were scattered down the length
of the ten-thousand oot runway, just getting out of their parachutes, when
two armored vehicles rolled out onto the airfield and started firing their
machine guns and heavy cannon.
"Oh hell! Not that!" I yelled in frustration. "The sons of bitches
will cut our men to pieces". But almost as soon as the vehicles gained the
center of the runway, the Rangers opened fire on them with two 90-millimeter
recoilless rifles-abruptly ending the armor threat on Point Salines. Now
the second pass was overhead, and the air was full of green parachutes dangling
So the automatic weapons fire shifted their focus from the airplanes
to the men on the ground.
This is bad, this is bad, I thought, watching the fire rip across
the far end of the runway. This is when a unit is the most vulnerable. Just
as they land and their leaders are scattered and they haven't had the time
But then I saw an amazing sight. The Rangers rose from the ground
as one organism, screaming their war cries, and assaulted straight across
the runway toward the enemy guns. Within ten minutes, the guns fell silent.
The third and last pass of Rangers jumped almost unmolested.
Later that day I learned that a corporal had led the spontaneous
assault across the airfield. Somebody said the guy jumped up from the ground
and shouted, "I've had enough of this shit!" and took off across the airfield
toward the enemy positions. Every man near him jumped up to follow, and the
attack spread like wildfire up and down the length of the airfield. Goddamn!
Once on the ground, 1/75 was no longer under effective fire, and
thus could begin to clear the runway of blocking trucks and bulldozers. Some
of the vehicles had keys in them; others were hot-wired and removed. A Cuban
bulldozer was used to flatten the stakes that had been driven into the ground
with wires between them, and to push aside the drums placed on the runway.
For fifteen minutes there was no enemy fire, and the Rangers worked without
By 10:00, 1/75 had its second platoon at the True Blue Campus and
its first and third platoons had moved north of the runway. In the center,
"B" 1/75, had moved north and was holding the high ground not far from the
Cuban headquarters. Units of 2/75 had cleared the area west of the airfield
as well as the area north of their drop zone to Canoe Bay. The airfield was
secure, and the C-130s, which had gone to Barbados to refuel, returned to
unload equipment not dropped - which included M151 gun jeeps, motorcycles,
and Hughes A/MH-6 "Little Birds" otherwise known as MD500 Defender helicopters.
Eight hours after landing, the commander of "B" 2/75, was notified
that two Rangers were missing near their positions. The company commander
decided the missing men must be near a building which lay between "B" Company
and the Cuban positions. A Cuban construction worker was sent forward with
an eleven-man Ranger squad under a flag of truce. While the Rangers remained
outside, the Cuban entered and spoke with those inside, who agreed to a truce
if the Rangers would treat the Cuban wounded. Two Rangers and seventeen wounded
Cubans were evacuated. Afterward, the Ranger commander called for the Cubans
to surrender, and 80 to 100 did so. The remainder surrendered later, after
a brief fight, to the 82nd Airborne.
At 15:30 that afternoon, a counterattack was launched toward "A"
1/75, consisting of three BTR-60s, which moved through 2nd platoons firing
positions, firing toward the runway. The Rangers countered with rifles, M60
MMGs, LAWs, and a 90mm recoilless rifle. Two of the BTRs hit each other when
the first one halted. Both were disabled. The third began a hasty retreat
and was hit in the rear. It was finally destroyed by an AC-130 Spectre gunship.
The last action of the first day took place east of True Blue Campus,
where Rangers came under fire from a house on top of a prominent hill, 1,000
meters east of the runway. No Spectre gunship was available, so an A-7 attack
plane finally destroyed the house, but only after several duds landed alarmingly
near the Rangers.
At the end of the first day in Grenada, the Rangers had secured the
airfield and True Blue Campus at a cost of five dead and six wounded.
Unfortunately, "C" 1/75, assigned to Delta Force had earlier run into a more
In contrast to the missions completed by the Army Ranger battalions,
was the more difficult assignments of SFOD-D, "Delta Force" or "commandos"
accompanied by Rangers, flown by TaskForce 160 (now called 160th SOAR) the
"Night Stalkers". The two primary objectives were Fort Rupert and Richmond
Hill prison. Fort Rupert, which intelligence reported was housing the core
of senior advisors to General Austin, was collectively known as the Revolutionary
Council. Richmond Hill prison which held scores of illegally imprisoned civil
servants and other citizens arrested by the oppressive RMC regime. Ideally,
of course, the commandos would have preferred to conduct these operations
at night, under cover of darkness. These conditions, too, were favored by
the pilots and crew from the Army's elite, and also newly formed, 160th Special
Operations Group, known also as Task Force 160, but better known as the "Night
Stalkers". Flying MH-60 Blackhawks and AH/MH-6 "Little Birds", the 160th
had been raised to provide the U.S. SOF community with an all-weather, day/night
helicopter capability in response to the failure of the marine pilots at
Desert One in 1980. One primary 160th mission was the covert infiltration
and exfiltration of SOF personnel into hostile locations. Such would be their
tasking in Grenada. Upon receiving word of the pending actions in Grenada,
the 160th dispatched a number of Blackhawks from Fort Campbell, Kentucky
to a nearby island staging area on Barbados. The "Little Birds" were
simultaneously transported by Air Force C-130 and C-5 cargo planes to the
same secret location. It was here that they met up with the Commando troopers
recently arrived from Fort Bragg.
Richmond Hill prison is located at the bottom of a valley overlooked
by a nearby enemy held fort. The Delta team had no accurate maps of the prison
and they had no idea of the prison's defenses. The mission was originally
tasked to Seal Team 6 operators but was changed to Delta at the last minute.
Delta's team had no time to plan an effective campaign and were going in
blind without hard intel as well. Due to delays delivering their MH-60 Blackhawk
helicopters from Barbados, the Rescue force would have to go in broad daylight
instead of under the cover of darkness as planned.
Delta planned on assaulting the prison compound by landing Blackhawk
helicopters outside the perimeter. They would then mount an intense frontal
attack and overwhelm the defenders. Unfortunately, the prison was built on
a hill with steep cliffs on three sides and had no adequate LZ to unload
the troopers. When Delta's men discovered the terrain problem, they decided
they would hover the aircraft over the prison and fast rope into the compound,
surprise the defenders and overwhelm them. As the Delta team flew toward
the prison they discovered that the hill was defended by anti-aircraft batteries
and also heavily defended from within. Perched on a high ridge whose sides
were almost vertical and covered by dense foliage, the prison was surrounded
by walls twenty feet high and topped with barbed wire and watchtowers covering
the area. Intelligence had failed to report the presence of two antiaircraft
guns on a ridge some 150 feet higher then the prison, which brought the
Blackhawks under fire. It was impossible to use ropes to lower the Rangers.
The helicopters had to remain steady during this operation, making the Rangers
and crews easy targets. No air support was possible at this time, since all
small aircraft were engaged at Salines. One helicopter was shot up and forced
to crash land down hill from the prison but still within range of the defenders.
The other choppers landed next to the downed bird and unloaded their payload
of troops. The Delta/Ranger team was almost instantly pinned down by enemy
fire and eventually had to be rescued by other Rangers from Salines Airport.
At least two attempts were made to bring the Blackhawks in to unload
troops, but anti-aircraft fire hit pilots, crew, and the attacking troops.
Suppressive fire from the Blackhawks was ineffective because of their violent
maneuvers, although some Rangers walked away from the crashed Blackhawks,
others were badly hurt and were not immediately evacuated. Part of the evacuation
problem seems to have been that Army pilots could not land aboard Navy ships
because they were snobbily considered "not qualified" to do so, although
this was eventually waived, and they landed without any problems. The Delta
operators that were able bodied to fight procedded to the hills surrounding
Port Salines airfield to help secure them for the incoming Ranger parachute
At Fort Rupert, however, the situation was much different. Arriving
by helicopter, troopers assaulted the complex and rounded up their quarry
quickly, without sustaining casualties. Their mission completed, the team
called for extraction from the 160th who arrived and transported both the
commandos and the detainees to the USS Guam offshore for questioning and
formal processing by officials.
Intelligence failed at the prison and also when the Rangers were
not informed until 1030 on the morning of the 25 October that there were
still students at the second campus at Grand Anse.
A Ranger platoon moved to the True Blue Campus with only light opposition
and commenced evacuating students via helicopter. During the evacuations,
the Rangers learned that there were many more American students at the main
Grand Anse campus. With the help of a student ,who was an amateur HAM radio
operator living at the other campus and other students, they learned of enemy
guards in the area, but the Rangers thought that they could bring the students
out. A heliborne operation with marine airlift from the USS Guam was planned.
Using marine helicopter squadron 261 CH-46s, with supporting fire from USAF
AC-130 gunships, ships off the coast, and the marines' last two surviving
AH-1T Cobra attack helicopters. American suppressive fire would continue
until 20 seconds before the Rangers were committed.
The Rangers would fly to the objective in three waves, each composed
of three CH-46s. Each wave of three would carry a company of Rangers, about
50 men. "A" 1/75 would go in first, followed by "B" 1/75, which was to cordon
off the campus to prevent outside intervention. "C" 1/75 (-) would then arrive,
its mission to locate the students and pack them into four CH-53Ds waiting
During lift-off the order of aircraft somehow became confused. Instead
of the lead flight having 3 x CH-46s carrying "A" 1/75, the first load had
one from "A" co. and two from "B" co. Consequently, the second wave had two
from "A" co. and one from "B" co. The first three aircraft missed the designated
beach in front of the campus. There was sporadic small arms fire, but the
only serious damage came from overhanging trees. One helicopter shut down
and was abandoned in the surf, but the Rangers scrambled out as water poured
in. Later a second marine machine was damaged by a tree.
The orbiting larger CH-53D Sea Stallions were now brought in to remove
the students. The CH-46s returned and extracted the Rangers, completing the
entire operation in 26 minutes. After leaving the beach, they realized that
eleven men sent up as a flank guard had not returned. By radio these men
were told to move toward positions held by the 82nd Airborne. The Rangers
were not sure they could safely enter those lines, so they decided to use
one of the inflatable boats from the disabled helicopter. However, the rafts
had been damaged during the air assault. The Rangers soon had to swim alongside
their damaged boat. Having battled surf and tides for some time, they were
spotted, picked up at 2300, and brought to the USS Caron lying off the coast.
One of the Rangers' initial D-day objectives, Calivigny barracks,
had not been secured. Lying about 5 kilometers from the airfield, the barracks
reportedly housed and trained troops. On 27 October, under the command of
a Brigade Headquarters from the 82nd Airborne Division, a full scale attack
was carried out by 2/75 and reinforced by "C" (-) 1/75.
Four waves of four UH-60 Blackhawks, each carrying a company to assault
the camp, were to fly out to sea before heading to the beach, flying low
over the water at about 100 knots. Support was furnished by USAF AC-130 Spectre
gunships and Navy A-7Es. At Salines the Army Airborne Field artillery had
seventeen 105mm howitzers, and at sea, the USS Caron would supply naval gunfire
support. "A" 2/75 was to land at the southern end of the compound, on the
left and right "C" 2/75 was to set down. "B" 2/75 was to land in the southeast,
assault suspected anti-aircraft guns, and rejoin the other companies in the
north. In reserve was "C" 1/75, which would also hold the southern end of
The Blackhawks came in over the waves, climbing sharply to the top
of the cliffs. Quickly the pilots slowed down in order to find the exact
landing zone inside the perimeter. Each Blackhawk came in rapidly, one behind
the other. The first helicopter put down safely, near the southern boundary
of the camp, and was followed by the second. The third Blackhawk suffered
some damage, and spun forward, smashing into the second machine. In the fourth
Blackhawk, the crew saw what was happening and veered hard right; the aircraft
landed in a ditch, damaging its tail rotor. Apparently not realizing that
the helicopters rotor was damaged, the pilot attempted to move the Blackhawk,
which rose sharply, seemed to spin forward, and crashed. In twenty seconds
three machines were down. Debris and rotor blades flew through the air, badly
wounding four Rangers and killing three who, sadly, were the only deaths
"A" 2/75 regrouped as "C" 2/75 landed on large concrete pads on the
edge of the compound. "B" 2/75 also landed safely, and moved on its objective.
"C"(-) 1/75 also landed without incident. Contrary to expectations, the barracks
were deserted. The Rangers found nothing. That night they slept in the rubble
caused by the intense bombardment. this was their last action before returning
to the United States.
The Ranger mission was a perfectly designed and executed mission
in accordance with Ranger standard operating procedures. The Rangers jumped
into an airstrip, secured it, and then were relieved by Airborne infantry
who pushed outward in all directions to maintain contact with the enemy and
defeat him. It was a textbook Ranger mission. The major negatives of the
Ranger missions were poor intelligence of the target areas, poor maps and
unarmored rubber-tired jeeps for blocking positions when light tracked armored
vehicles would have been better. M113 Gavin-type light tracked AFVs could
be airdropped or airlanded to accompany Ranger assaults and the lack of organic
tracked AFVs would condemn future operations like the October 3, 1993 mission
to capture Somali warlords popularly depicted in the book and film, "Blackhawk
Down!". The lack of adequate maps and terrain information not only plagued
the Ranger battalions but all forces involved in the conflict. Many commanders
only had local tourist travel maps.
The 82nd Airborne Division and the 22 marine amphibious unit both
had very successful missions. Both units acted as conventional infantry units
after insertion onto the island. Each unit was originally tasked to secure
larger areas than the Ranger units. The 82nd Airborne Division was responsible
for the southern half of the island while the marines had the northern half.
As the battles for the island unfolded, both units were called upon to react
quickly and decisively to multiple unforeseen missions. Both the 82nd Airborne
and the 22 MAU had to bail out one of the Spec Ops teams at one point. Their
flexibility and unified command structures were the key to their success.
The Spec Ops units may have had missions that ended in failure or
marginal success, but the end result was a decisive victory. The American
students were evacuated and any remaining Americans were secure and safe.
The lessons learned by the Spec Ops warriors resulted in new operating procedures
and eventually a new command being established. The Special Operations forces
were reorganized under the U.S. Army 1st Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
All U.S. Army Spec Ops units were placed under one command. This reduced
the breakdowns in communication, planning, and competition among the groups.
The units were organized under a common mission charter and each unit would
be tasked only with missions for which they were specialists.
Sweeping changes in policy occurred after the Grenada mission. The
doctrine of the Special Operations groups for Low Intensity conflict was
written to deal with military incursions such as Grenada and Panama. The
invasion of Grenada was necessary to gain the current level of readiness
in the Spec Ops commands. It was also successful in stopping the spread of
Cuban military readiness in the Gulf region and the restoration of a democratic
government in Grenada.
The epic battle for Grenada was the first inter-service combat for
the U.S. military in years, done with no notice. In the years to follow,
such operations would be practiced constantly resulting in the near flawless
invasion, takedown of Panama in 1989 resulting in the capture of dictator
Manuel Noriega. This Cold War victory showed that the U.S. was willing to
fight for freedom on the ground and prevail.