30 Years Ago Today, the U.S. Invaded Grenada

The conflict pit the U.S. military against Grenadian revolutionaries and the Cuban army

U.S. paratroopers drop into Grenada
U.S. paratroopers drop into Grenada United States Army / Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago today, Operation Urgent Fury swept Grenada, a small island nation off the coast of Venezuela. The conflict pit the U.S. military against Grenadian revolutionaries and the Cuban army, and it was the only time in the long history of tense American-Cuban relations that two countries engaged in open warfare.

Twelve days before the invasion, says PBS, President Reagan was alerted to turmoil in Grenada. Less than a week later Grenada’s government fell, brought down from the inside. Miami Herald:

Planning for Urgent Fury began after Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a close Cuba ally, and 10 followers were murdered during an Oct. 19 coup by his hard-line Marxist deputy, Bernard Coard, and Gen. Hudson Austin, head of the 1,500-member

Officially, says the Herald, it was President Reagan’s worry for the hundreds of American medical students who had been in Grenada that prompted the invasion. But, says PBS, the real reason was probably a bit different:

Reagan was most concerned by the presence of Cuban construction workers and military personnel building a 10,000-foot airstrip on Grenada. Though Bishop had claimed the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land, Reagan believed its purpose was to allow military transport planes loaded with arms from Cuba to be transferred to Central American insurgents.

The war lasted less than a week, but in the brief conflict 19 U.S. soldiers, 25 Cuban soldiers, 45 Grenadian revolutionaries and 24 civilians died. Today in Grenada an official holiday, Thanksgiving Day, marks the first day of the invasion.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Never-Before-Seen Photos Taken 50 Years Ago During Preparations for Cuba Invasion

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