Grenada is one of the southern Caribbean islands and the invasion of Grenada took place during the Cold war between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. During the Cold War period, the US was determined to control the spread of communism around the world. Tension between the southern and eastern Caribbean islands erupted when Cuba decided to use Grenada, a former British colony as the military holding base. The eastern Caribbean Island feared the threat posed by the communists and asked the US to intervene. The US responded urgently with the assistance from the eastern islands. “The invasion started in October 25th 1983 and ended with defeat of Cuba and Grenadian resistance. “ (Wolf) Although, countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and the UN general assembly condemned the invasion, it enjoyed much support from the US citizens and a section of Grenada’s population.
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In March 1979, a movement by the name New Jewel overthrew the Grenada government headed by then Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy and formed a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) led by Bishop Maurice as the new Prime Minister. The new Grenada leadership established close relationship with Cuba, Soviet Union and other communist supporting countries. In 1983 a power struggle erupted within the People Revolutionary government which led to the execution of Bishop Maurice and a few members of his cabinet by some elements of the government.
Following the failure of the people’ revolutionary government the US military together with Grenada’s neighboring island such as Jamaica, Dominica, Saint Lucio, Barbuda and Saint Vincente invaded the state of Grenada after an appeal from the state’s Governor. The purpose of the mission was to provide security for the US citizens, removing the people Revolutionary government and to put in place a democratic government.
The civil strife in Grenada existed since independence from the United Kingdom in 1974 and escalated after the election of Sir Eric Grairy as the Prime Minister in the 1976 general elections when the opposition movement did not concede defeat. Street protests between the New Jewel Movement and the government supporters characterized the civil unrest. “In the late 1970s the New Jewel movement started planning to oust the Grenada’s government and it had its member receive military training outside the country.” (Wolf) While Sir Gairly was away on an international mission, the NJ movement led by Bishop ousted the government forming the PRG.
Bishop Maurice took the Prime Minister’s helm and did away with the constitution until 1983. During the Bishop’s rein as the Prime Minister all minor political parties were banned completely including any form of elections. His government established an international relationship with Cuba and other pro-communist governments.
On 13th October 1983, a faction of the NJM party headed by Bernard Coard the then sitting Deputy Prime Minister, illegally assumed power. Following a mass action against Bernard’s actions, Bishop escaped from a house detention and reaffirmed his power as the leader of the government of Grenada. Later Bishop along with his loyalties, were captured and murdered, the leadership of Grenada was placed under the army led by Hudson Austin which established a military council to rule Grenada.
The army placed Grenada’s Governor General under house arrest and announced a curfew which lasted for four days where anyone found outside was murdered. After the announcement of Bishop’s execution on October 20th the Cuban government sent a message of condolence to the people of Grenada through documents sent to the press as the US embarked on a Grenada invasion.
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The organization of eastern Caribbean states asked the US, Jamaica and Barbados for help and this appeal coincided with the US government’s decision to invade Grenada. The invasion was the first US military operation since the Vietnam War where America sent more than 7,000 military personnel to the fight which lasted for several days. The Grenadian soldiers had the backing of the Cuban military including military advice from the Soviet Union, North Korea and West Germany.
The reasons which triggered the US to take military action include; the US wanted to protect her 1,000 medical students enrolled in St George’s university medical school and the political instability in a country next to the US concerned President Reagan much at the same time the other issue was the construction of the Point Salines International Airport by the Bishop’s government which was a major concern to the US.
The US government for long time had been accusing Grenada of building facilities to aid the establishment of communism in the Caribbean states. The US believed that the Soviet Union and Cuba used the airport to transport military weapons to the Central America countries; however Bishop’s government claimed that the airport was built to be used by commercial planes transporting tourists. In 1982 when Ron Dellums a member of the US House of Representatives visited Grenada following the Prime Minister’s invitation, Grenada was building an airstrip that according to the US government officials could be used by the Soviet Union army crafts.
In March of 1983, Reagan the president of the US started to issue warnings about the threats the military collaboration between the Soviet Union and Cuba had on the United States. “He believed that the 9,000 feet runaway and the oil storage tanks on the Salines airport were not necessary for commercial aircrafts, and hence the airport could become an airbase for the Soviet-Cuban Union.” (Military) He also held that the defeat of the Pro-Cuban Grenada government would end communism in the area. Grenada invasion was also triggered by the Muslim suicide bomb attack on the US marine barracks in Beirut that killed 240 Marines, on the morning of October 25th prior to the Grenada invasion.
After the US led invasion that ended victoriously, Paul Scoon the Grenada’s Governor General restored back the constitution and constituted a new Grenada’s government. The government of Bishop Maurice with the Cuban support was ousted and the government friendly to the US was established. The governor general formed an advisory council which ran the affairs of the country until the 1984 general elections. The United States military personnel who included the military police, intelligence and Special Forces remained in Grenada after the invasion. The invasion was a proof that the US government was willing to use force to stop any government considered as threat to its interests in the Caribbean.
Again the invasion sent a warning to Cuba and Nicaragua that they could not provoke any US military responses in their mission of spreading a revolution in Central America. “During the invasion 45 Cuban soldiers were killed, 59 injured and 638 were captured by the US military.” (Military) The Grenadian military suffered 45 deaths and 358 injuries while 24 civilians were reported to have been killed during the US led invasion. The Grenada’s government set October 25th as Thanksgiving Day to commemorate the invasion. In 2008, the government of Grenada made a promise to build a monument to honor the Cuban soldiers who died during the invasion.
- Military, Operation Urgent Fury. Web.
- Wolf Julie, the invasion of Grenada.