SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
This article on Grenada was selected by Military Colleges Online as one of the 99 Crucial Sites on 20th Century American Military History.
The invasion of the island-nation of Grenada is important because it was an early extension of American power that showed several weaknesses within the American military establishment. The problems and the confusion that occurred during the occupation of this tiny island led to changes in command and communication that was to benefit the United States Military in future campaigns.
Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard
Maurice Bishop with Fidel Castro
The Grenada story began on 13 March 1979 when Maurice Bishop overthrew the legitimate government and established a communist society. The New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (New Jewel Movement) ousted Sir Eric Gairy, Grenada's first Prime Minister, and established a people's revolutionary government. Grenada began construction of a 10,000 foot international airport with the help of Cuba. There was speculation that this airfield could be used to land military fighters and transports, threatening South America and the southern United States.
Stationery of the New Jewel Movement brought back by J. Scott Bowman of the 1st PSYOP Battalion. Notice the chained hand and the hand with the chain broken. Specialist Four J. Scott Bowman was a 96B (Intelligence Analyst) and a 96F (Psychological Operations specialist) and a member of the 1st PSYOP Battalion who deployed to Panama, El Salvador and Grenada. He was promoted to sergeant in June 1984.
Bowman also collected this stationery fromGrenada Committee for Friendship with the Peoples. This would appear to be some kind of Marxist propaganda organization espousing friendship with the poor working class people of the world.
President Ronald Reagan accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet and Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean. There was also worry about the large number of weapons flowing into Grenada. One shipment in 1979 contained 3400 rifles and 3 million rounds of ammunition. In addition, there were about 600 American medical students studying in Grenada and another 400 foreign citizens.
Maurice Bishop in happier times at the height of his power
The safety of these Americans became a factor when Maurice Bishop and several members of his cabinet were murdered by elements of the people's revolutionary army on 13 October 1983. The even more reactionary and violent Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard who led a Marxist-influenced group within the Grenadian Army replaced Bishop. President Reagan called the leaders of the new government "a brutal group of leftist thugs."
SGT Barton of the 82nd Airborne Division stacks his
C-rations near a pile of captured Cuban weapons.
The United States reacted to the bloody coup in Grenada within two weeks. On 25 October 1983 American troops landed on the beaches of Grenada. They were assisted in part by members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), specifically Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua, Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent. They were opposed by Grenadian and Cuban military units and military advisors from the Soviet Union, North Korea, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Libya.
Grenada Invasion Plan Map
Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong during this operation. A Navy SEAL reconnaissance mission floundered in heavy seas and four of the SEALs drowned after a night combat equipment water jump in the ocean about 40 kilometers off the north-northwest tip of Port Salinas, Grenada. They were dropped into the teeth of a squall along with a
Whaler from an Air Force C-130 and immediately went under. Navy SEALs John Butcher, Kevin Lundbergh, Stephen Morris and Robert Schamberger drowned during the drop. Later investigation found that the SEALs had never attempted the night drop of a team and a boat before. Boston
There were navigation problems with the lead C-130 and the pilot could not guarantee finding the targeted drop zones. Ranger units could not communicate with each other directly and had to be transmitted through Air Force communications. The intelligence was faulty and the location of the medical students and enemy anti-aircraft weapons was incorrect. The mission got off late and the UH-60 helicopters that were supposed to reach
in darkness arrived after dawn, eliminating all hope of surprise. When the helicopters attempted to test fire their machine guns they discovered that the ammunition was regular link instead of mini-gun ammunition, which caused the weapons to jam. When the 82nd Airborne was asked for an artillery barrage their shells fell short because the cannoneers had left their aiming circles behind and were unable to communicate with the supported force to adjust fire. Army helicopters flying wounded to the Navy ship Grenada Guamcould not find it at first and did not have the frequencies to talk to the Navy and determine where the ship was located. Worse, as the Army helicopters ran out of fuel and were forced to land on the decks of Navy ships, they were refused fuel because a Navy Controller in Washington found that no payment arrangements had been worked out between the sister services. This order was of course, countermanded by the Navy Admiral in charge.
A 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment Death Card
We dont know if the Rangers actually brought this card to Grenada but it was prepared for the invasion and copies were found in the headquarters of the Ranger Regiment. It tells the government troops that the Rangers are in their rear area and cannot be stopped.
The Rangers originally expected to land at Salines airfield. When it was discovered that the enemy had set up runway obstacles, a decision was made to have them parachute (in some cases with double loads) from 500 feet altitude. Since the men had removed their gear, they had to refit in the aircraft. The aircraft were out of assigned order and the runway clearing team would not be the first on the field. The Air Force refused to conduct a mass parachute drop requested by the Rangers. There was an alleged problem with the prompt evacuation of the wounded because Army helicopter pilots were not qualified to land on Navy ships. This requirement was quickly waived. As an example of further interservice rivalry, Norman Schwarzkopf adds in It Doesnt take a Hero, Bantam Books, 1992, that he had to give a Marine Colonel a direct order and threat of court-martial to fly Army Rangers in Marine helicopters. The 82nd Airborne had serious dehydration problems and this led directly to the introduction of light-weight BDUs shortly after the operation.
The Grenada Radio Fiasco
Perhaps the most famous of the fiascoes was depicted in the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge. Enemy machine-guns pinned down navy SEALs assaulting the Governor-Generals mansion. Two American gunships flew overhead but the men on the ground were unable to communicate directly with them. There were major problems with the radios of the various services and communication was curtailed. As a result, one pinned-down American actually used his personal credit card to send a collect call from the mansion to Fort Bragg N.C to request a fire mission. The message was forwarded from North Carolina to the naval ships off shore and the fire order was carried out. Despite all this, the casualty rate for United States forces were only 19 dead and 116 wounded. The Grenada military suffered 49 dead and 358 wounded. The Cuban count was 29 dead and over a hundred wounded.
Colonel John T. Carney Jr. talks about the problems in No Room for Error: The Covert Operations of Americas Special Tactics Units from Iran to Afghanistan, Ballantine, N.Y., 2002:
We achieved our mission, but took heavy casualties. Nineteen men were killed in action and 123 wounded. The enemy was a hastily organized force of about 50 Cuban military advisers, over 700 Cuban construction workers, and one thousand two hundred members of
s Peoples Revolutionary Army. Many of the casualties were from friendly fire. Grenada
To this day, I doubt that any one person knows how ineptly Urgent Fury was planned and executed Operation Urgent Fury became the military equivalent of a Japanese Kabuki dance created by three or four choreographers speaking different languages, all working independently of each other.
In the long run, however, the operation proved a defining moment for special operations, for it led directly to the creation, by Congressional mandate, three years later, of the
Special Operations Command U.S.
British Major Mark Adkin, Commanding Officer of the Caribbean Peace-keeping Force (CPF), mentions the problems in Urgent Fury: The Battle for Grenada (Issues in Low Intensity Conflict), Lexington Books, 1989. He says that the U.S. armed forces came extremely close to a major political defeat due to poor planning on the part of senior officers. The Americans did not have topographical maps of the island and used old British touring maps. The location and strength of the enemy forces were almost completely unknown. This led directly to the loss of several helicopters and caused Delta Force to abort two missions. There was no fully integrated communications system. The Americans lacked precise data on the location of the medical students they were to rescue. More than a thousand American medical students were spread out over three locations instead of only at the True Blue campus in the southern tip of the island.
Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the task force's deputy commander, and never one to pull a punch commented on the operation:
Even though higher headquarters screws it up every way you can possibly screw it up, it is the initiative and valor of the small units, the small-unit leadership, and the Soldiers on the ground that will win for you every time.
During the entire operation from 25 October through 15 December 1983, 7,355 troops took part in Operation Urgent Fury. The Americans overcame poor planning and overwhelmed the defenders with mass, speed and firepower.
In all, this campaign went almost as badly as the ill-fated 1980 hostage rescue in Iran (Operation Eagleclaw). However, like that operation, the United States military studied the problems, published the lessons learned, and came away with a leaner and more efficient Special Operations force. The doctrine of the Special Operations groups for Low Intensity conflict was written to deal with military incursions such as Grenada and Panama. The confusion and inability to communicate that was Urgent Fury led directly to the improvements that would guarantee victory in future American military operations.
On the positive side, the cameras were rolling as the medical students were rescued. The entire world saw young men and women hugging and kissing
troops. It was a genuine act of emotion and gratitude that could not be faked. One soldier who took part in the operation told me: U. S.
The best American PSYOP of
was inadvertent. When the rescued students kissed Grenada Soil on national news, the political impact was enormous. U. S.
The battle for Grenada was the first combined-service campaign of the U.S. military in years. Afterwards, such operations would be practiced constantly resulting in the near flawless invasion of Panama in 1989, and perhaps the greatest military victory in American history, Operation Desert Storm, a year later.
An Evacuation Poster for American Citizens
Some aspects of the PSYOP campaign were carried out by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Reserve and National Guard. For instance, according to Retired Colonel Alfred H. Paddock, writing in an article entitled PSYOP: A Historical Perspective, for Perspectives, Volume 22, Number 5 & 6, 2012:
Working with the 4th Group, the Navys Reserve Audiovisual Unit (NARU 186) produced a cassette tape of PSYOP messages and music which the Pennsylvania Air National Guards 193d Special Operations Group (then Coronet Solo) broadcast over radio to the Grenadian people concurrent with the landing of U.S. Marines and Army Rangers. The Navy deployed its mobile 10 kilowatt radio station (AN/ULT-3) which, together with Coronet Solo, provided coverage of the island until the Armys 50 kilowatt set could be installed The Joint Psychological Operations Task Force electronically transmitted its initial leaflet with directions for its production and dissemination to the aircraft carrier USS Guam. After printing on the Guam, Marine helicopters distributed 50,000 leaflets as Marine forces landed in Grenada. Permanent presses at the 4th Groups headquarters at Fort Bragg, NC, printed and packaged leaflets targeting both the Grenadian population and Cubans on the island. Air force MC-130 aircraft dropped 300,000 of these in the St. Georges area and along the western coast on the second day of hostilities. Between 25 October and 8 December the PSYOP task force produced and disseminated more than 900,000 leaflets, handbills, and posters.
We learn more about the PSYOP broadcasts in Operation Urgent Fury - Grenada, Ronald H. Cole, Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1997:
Navy Admiral McDonald requested guidance on themes for PSYOPS broadcasts to the Grenadian populace. He considered such operations essential to the speedy conclusion of military operations and the successful launching of a new government. Some of the proposed themes were:
US involvement had been requested by Caribbean countries that feared the spread of Marxism by violent means; Caribbean and US forces were carefully avoiding civilian casualties or damage to private property; Cubans and Soviets were being offered safe conduct out of the country; and the presence of foreign troops would continue until the safety of the people of Grenada was assured. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved McDonalds concept the following day; radio broadcasts began on 28 October.
The Los Angeles Times of 15 November 1983 also mentioned the radio operations in an article entitled U.S. Psychological Unit on Offensive in Grenada written by staff writer Rone Tempest. The article says in part:
In the hours before the American invasion of this island on October 25th, a powerful new radio station began broadcasting from a Navy ship somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. In Spanish, it asked Cubans on the island to give themselves up. In English it asked Grenadians to open their home and help the friendly soldiers find opposing soldiers. A review of a tape said to have been made of the broadcast disclosed at least one exaggeration: A British destroyer is on the way to help with the rescue effort.
The exaggeration was intentional. This was the first phase of the psychological war for Grenada, conducted by officers of the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion of the U.S. Army. Since then, the so-called PSYOP unit, commander by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Ashworth, has plastered walls throughout Grenada with propaganda posters, dropped leaflets from helicopters on small villages, created a pro-American radio station to replace the former Radio Free Grenada and traveled hills and coastlines in specially equipped jeeps broadcasting anti-Cuban messages.
Help protect your hard fought freedom one such message boomed. Help send the Cubans back to Havana where they belong. One particularly graphic poster produced by the psychological warfare group depicts several leaders of Grenadas former Marxist government with large red lines slashed across their face. These people attempted to sell Grenada out to the Communists; now they have surrendered. The Grenadian people will never allow such characters to assume such power and cause such hardship.
Absent from the poster and broadcast campaign, which includes the playing of locally composed calypso songs praising the invasion and President Reagan, is any attack of former Marxist former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was executed on 19 October, along with a number of his supporters by hard line members of his regime. Bishop was personally popular with Grenadians and his execution was one of the justifications the United States has given for the invasion.
U.S. PSYOP soldier reads off a prepared script in Grenada
In regard to PSYOP in Grenada, Stanley Sandler says in Cease Resistance: It's Good for You: A history of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations, 1999:
4th PSYOP Group loudspeaker teams attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, in addition to persuading significant numbers of frightened Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) troops to turn themselves in, confirmed the enemy's low morale as well as the desire of even some of the Cuban "Construction Battalions" to remain on the island with their Grenadian wives and families.
Former PRA Members
Regarding leaflets, Sandler says:
But other, more specialized leaflets, emphasized that this was a combined operation with other Caribbean nations as well as the United States acting against a foreign threat. Something new was added when U.S. PSYOP troops photographed captured Grenadian Communist leaders in captivity, thus reassuring citizens that they could now go about their business unmolested by a cabal whom most genuinely feared. One such leaflet, headlined "These hoodlums are now in custody," displayed most unflattering photos of the subjects while another showed the two chiefs of the Marxist clique, Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, in safe custody on a U.S. Navy ship with the message "FORMER PRA MEMBERS: Your corrupt leaders have surrendered. Knowing resistance is useless...Join your countrymen now in rebuilding a truly democratic Grenada.
Note: That is Major Yang from the 4th PSYOP Group standing behind the seated prisoner.
Sandler says in an article printed in Mindbenders, Vol. 9, No.3, 1995:
The 4th PSYOP Group distributed leaflets giving the Grenadian population guidance and information, and a newly-deployed 50-kilowatt transmitter, "Spice Island Radio," broadcast news and entertainment throughout the island.
The Cost of Oppression
Another leaflet depicted a large X over a red Communist star and the photographs of five Communist leaders. The text is
THE COST OF OPPRESSION
These criminals attempted to sell Grenada out to the Communists.
NOW THEY HAVE SURRENDERED
The Grenadian people will never again allow such characters to assume power and cause such hardship.
SUPPORT DEMOCRACY FOR GRENADA
Grenada Radio Station antenna with wires cut by the U. S. Navy Seals.
Radio Free Grenada was one of the first targets of American bombs. To replace Radio Free Grenada, the U.S. set up Spice Island Radio, under the overall control of the Psychological Operations Section of the Army. A twelve-man team of Navy journalists immediately flew in from Norfolk, recruited some local announcers, and Spice Island Radio was on the air. Their first broadcast called on Grenadians to lay down their arms. The head of the Navy team, Lt. Richard Ezzel, told Reuters, "We wanted to save lives.
The Cuban-Built Air Strip Still under Construction
An expert on radio PSYOP added:
One of the first objectives was the islands commercial AM transmitter. The
Soviet Unionhad provided it. The control panel of the transmitter gave control functions in Russian. The locals had put labels in English below those controls. The Navy sent in a Seal Team to quiet the transmitter just prior to the invasion. While the building exterior received a lot of light weapons damage, the transmitter was reasonably unscathed. The Navy cut the feed lines to the antenna to disable the transmitter. The US Navys PSYOP 10KW broadcast transmitter aboard ship off the coast of US began broadcasting using a tethered balloon antenna. The 4th PSYOP Group brought in the TRT-22 and after several days of being bounced around from site to site, finally set up near the new airport at Port Salines. It was there several months. Grenada
Donald R Wooldridge told me about putting up the antenna. He was part of a 9-man team from Fort Huachuca, Arizona that installed the 250 foot TRT-22 antenna for the 4th PSYOP Group. He said:
Everything turned out well because of our leadership. We had a lot of problems with the supported unit and ended up sleeping outside of the building and got rained on every single day. We installed it in four days with a team that had seven members who just graduated from school.
Locals express thanks to U.S. Soldiers
FM 33-1-1, Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures mentions the antenna in Appendix K: The PSYOP Dissemination Battalion Operational Procedures. It says in part:
The AN/TRT-22 system is a radio production and broadcast system. The 50-kw AM transmitter can broadcast on any frequency from 535 KHz to 1620 KHz to a range of approximately 120 to 150 kilometers. The system is manned by one 8-man broadcast team from the radio platoon. The 256-foot antenna tower requires a special team to erect with an installation time of 5 to 7 days. This antenna erection team, which consists of one NCOIC and five enlisted personnel from the signal/communications support element at Fort Huachuca, AZ, must be deployed from other units; the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion does not have organic capability to erect this antenna.
The complete AN/TRT-22 system consists of nine S-280 shelters with dolly sets, two 200-kw generators, a large heliax cable spool, and a prime mover (M35A2). The system requires one C-5 for air transport. The AN/TRT-22 has limited mobility in that it is designed to be deployed to one location. The 50,000-watt transmitter requires two 200-kw generators working alternately for 24 hours of broadcast power consuming 568 to 605 liters of fuel per 24 hours.
The New York Times
Department of the Army FM 33-1, Psychological Operations, July 1987, mentions the Grenada PSYOP campaign.
The 1983 Grenada operation included PSYOP elements from all the services. These elements provided the commander with the primary means of mass communication with both the enemy and local populace. The communication capability was especially important during the initial phases of the operation.
Leaflets directing the populace to remain indoors and tune their radios to a specific frequency were designed by the Army and printed aboard Navy ships. Other leaflets, produced both at Ft. Bragg and on the island, were effectively used during the consolidation operations to encourage Grenadian civilians to report information concerning Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) and Cuban soldiers. An Air Force airborne transmitter station was used by PSYOP elements to broadcast information after the Grenada radio station was rendered inoperative during the first day of operation. By the third day, a small land-based PSYOP station commenced operations. Later, Army PSYOP elements deployed a large 50KW transmitter capable of broadcasting to the entire island. Eventually, PSYOP personnel were broadcasting 11 hours per day.
PSYOP Loudspeaker Team
Vehicle-mounted loudspeakers were also used for psychological consolidation activities.
8th Special Operations Squadron
The 8th Special Operations Squadron is the second longest continuously operational active duty squadron in the U.S. Air Force. Since its inception in 1917, the 8th SOS has flown 17 different types of aircraft. This list includes DH-4s, B-26s, B-57s, A-37s, MC-130Hs and the MC-130E Combat Talon I currently flown by the 8th.
The squadron was called on again in October 1983 to lead the way in the rescue of American students endangered on the island of Grenada. After long hours of flight, the aircrew members faced intense ground fire to airdrop U.S. Army Rangers to Point Salinas Airfield in the opening moments of Operation Urgent Fury. They subsequently followed up with three psychological operations leaflet drops designed to encourage the Cubans to discontinue the conflict.
Navy Sea King Helicopters
The Navy also took part in the PSYOP campaign. SH-3H Sea King helicopters from Squadron HS-15 based on the Aircraft Carrier Independence dropped leaflets over Central Grenada.
EC-130 Commando Solo
The website of the 193d Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard adds:
The EC-130 was also used over Grenada, originally modified using the mission electronic equipment from the EC-121, known at the time as the Coronet Solo. Soon after the 193rd SOW received its EC-130s, the unit participated in the rescue of US citizens in Operation Urgent Fury, acting as an airborne radio station informing those people on Grenada of the US military action.
The Commando Solo's airborne radio station played an initial pre-invasion "warning" broadcast tape to the people of Grenada on 25 October, the first day of the American invasion. The tape was produced two days earlier on 23 October at the request of Army Lieutenant Colonel George Coburn, the PSYOP Plans officer of the Atlantic Command (LANTCOM) J58. A Naval Reserve PSYOP element, Naval Reserve Atlantic Fleet (LANTFLT) PSYOPS AVU 0286, drilling at Naval Air Reserve Norfolk assisted with the project.
The tape was produced by Television Production Specialist W. B. Church, also the reserve unit's Program Manager. A number of the citizens of Grenada were interviewed some years later who vividly recalled that broadcast. To a man, each credited it with reducing initial hostilities and resistance.
Stationery of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Forces brought back by J. Scott Bowman
of the 1st PSYOP Battalion. The use of a conch shell in the central image is interesting.
The revised Radio Free Grenada began broadcasts within days of the invasion. Major General George Crist selected a group of local radio announcers to operate the station even before the new pro-American interim government was formed. Resistance was moderate and security was ensured on the island, opening the doors for a multilateral peacekeeping force with American and Caribbean troops to rebuild peace and stability on Grenada.
Cole says about Major General Crist:
On Grenada, Major General Crist immersed himself in PSYOP and politico-military affairs. After locating local radio announcers to broadcast on Radio Free Grenada, he worked with the Governor General to establish an interim government. By late 26 October, the ground force commanders on Grenada had provided Crist with many captured Cuban and Soviet documents. At Crists request the CIA sent several linguists to translate them. The captured documents included five military assistance agreements between the Bishop government, the Soviet Union, and Cuba which provided for the training of Grenadian soldiers in both countries. The documents indicated a Soviet promise of $30.5 million worth of uniforms, rifles, machine guns, antitank weapons, antiaircraft guns, and other military supplies to be delivered to Grenadian authorities over a five-year period. Crist recommended that Admiral McDonald display the weapons and copies of the documents to counter the mounting criticism of URGENT FURY in Canada and Western Europe.
U. S. Army Blackhawk helicopters on Grenada
Sergeant Jim Peterson, who served with A Company, 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, vividly remembers returning to Salinas Airport with his unit when a UH-60 Blackhawk slowly flew overhead playing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries from what appeared to be a loudspeaker above the wheels.
I was originally told that this was an aircraft loudspeaker broadcast that, contrary to what some may have thought, was not a sanctioned psyop broadcast, but rather the actions of an individual UH-60 Blackhawk pilot. The unknown pilot was apparently motivated by the classic scene from the Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now where Air Cavalry Troop Commander Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore says:
We'll come in low, out of the rising sun, and about a mile out, we'll put on the music...
Yeah, I use Wagner -- scares the hell out of the slopes! My boys love it !
Put on psych-war operations, make it loud.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kenneth Holden
In February 2019 I was contacted by that UH-60 pilot, 37-year Army veteran CW-2 Ken Holden. He told me:
I am the Pilot who flew this mission. It was a memorable event to say the least. I have found a few references that attribute this flight as a personal choice but that is not the case. It was an approved PSYOP mission.
I was CW2 Kenneth Holden, UH-60A Pilot in Command with A Co 82 CAB, (Redhawks). My co-pilot was WO1 Arlington Ingalls who later died at Ft Bragg (March 1985) in the same helicopter we flew in Grenada: Tail # 79-23314. We arrived on the third day, just in time to see the Navy A-7 Corsair fire on the US tactical Operation Center on the East end of the runway. The 105's were pounding Calivigny barracks with artillery and we could feel the reverberations in the air as we landed for fuel.
CW2 Holdens Log Book
Notice that the 31 October mission states that the music he played from the loudspeaker was The Ride of the Vulcans. He told me:
I had not acquired a taste for classical music yet, I guess I just wrote what I thought he title was.
The PSYOP teams were added to the manifests as a last minute means to address the large number of Cuban construction workers that were unaccounted for. They were harassing us for several days, occasionally spraying a clip of ammo from an AK-47 in the general direction of the runway. If I recall correctly this PSYOP crew just showed up and shopped for an aircraft until they found our Flight Operations. When I received the mission, they were already at the aircraft with our crew chief. It took a while to rig the helicopter, a big speaker on the left side, and a tape player and batteries. They weren't designed for a helicopter but we made it work. We tested the system on the ground, that sublime music followed by messages in English and Spanish to lay down their arms and surrender. The plan was to fly in circling patterns at 400 feet across the island. We were supposed to have a Cobra gunship as an escort, but they did not show up.
During takeoff the PSYOP crew started playing the music and the whole crew was Psyched! We were so engaged in the mission that we just kept going, relying on our door guns for protection until the Cobra finally caught up with us (A little miffed that we didn't wait for them).
We continued North along the Eastern side of the island and then cut west across the northern third as the speaker batteries gave up and we started back to Point Salines. We flew southbound about a mile offshore when my radar receiver lit up with a signal and audio from the western shore. We just tracked along offshore, slightly lower in altitude and I waited to call out the smoke trail as the Cobra peeled off and headed toward the reverse track of the signal, which cut off immediately. They found an abandoned AA system, I think it was an SA-8, I guess they hauled ass when they saw the Cobra inbound and decided not to engage. So I am really glad that we flew up the East side of the island first, had we left without the Cobra and flown up the west side first, a different outcome was more than likely. We landed and our PSYOP crew unloaded and departed.
The Blackhawk Parking Area next to the Salinas Runway
The emotional and physical link to Vietnam was there, swaying palms, tropical heat, disorganized operations, soldier's and aircrew's first taste of fear and then courage under fire. But it was not in the same egotistical way it was portrayed in the movie "Apocalypse Now". We weren't inbound on the grand stage of a 90 ship Air Assault, it was a two ship PSYOP mission, intended to flush out the remaining resistance fighters from their hiding places. I remember sending news articles from Time magazine to my family, and they were very proud to have a vicarious link to such a story.
I can't say what effect, if any, that selection of music had on the Cuban soldiers, but according to Jim Peterson the musical display was well received by the US Army and Air Force personnel in the area, and boosted their spirits.
There were very few PSYOP leaflets disseminated over Grenada during the few days of armed struggle. At first we only knew of three. They are all plain text and none contain pictures or photographs.
The first is found in both a light and dark green text and border. The text is:
People of Grenada. Your Caribbean neighbors with U.S. support have come to Grenada to restore democracy and insure your safety.
Text on the back is:
Remain indoors, avoid conflicts and no harm will come to you. Further emergency information will follow.
The second has purple text and border. The text on the front is:
CITIZENS OF GRENADA Take every precaution to insure your safety. Help us avoid accidentally injuring you or members of your families by taking the steps on the reverse side. Please remain calm and no harm will come to you.
Text on back explains:
CITIZENS OF RENADA. Take every precaution to insure your safety. Help us avoid accidentally injuring you or your families by taking the following steps: Do not leave your home. Avoid confrontations and do not interfere with U.S./Caribbean Forces. If fighting starts in your area, stay in your homes and on the floor. Stay off roads and highways. Further emergency information will follow. PLEASE REMAIN CALM AND NO HARM WILL COME TO YOU.
The third leaflet comes in two slightly different varieties (dark blue and light blue text and border) and is written in English and Spanish. It has the same message on both sides. The English message is:
CUBAN NATIONALS. Your Caribbean neighbors and U.S. Forces have come to Grenada to restore Democracy and evacuate U.S. Citizens. Stay out of the conflict. Remain in your compound or home. Avoid confrontations and do not interfere with on going operations. If you remain out of the way you will not be harmed. (Spanish translation on the other side).
The fourth leaflet showed up a bit later. I never heard of it being dropped during the invasion, but it was depicted in the book Grenada - Revolution, Invasion and Aftermath, Hugh O'Shaughnessy, Sphere Books, London, 1984. He describes it as:
Safe conduct pass in the form of a Cuban 5 peso banknote bearing the picture of Antonio Maceo, black hero of Cuban independence (Authors note: Antonio Maceo y Grajales, 1845-1896). Distributed by U.S. troops for use by Cubans during the October invasion.
By some coincidence I was at Ft. Bragg shortly after the war and while visiting one of the librarians at the Special Forces Library noticed the banknote leaflet under a piece of glass on his desk. I did some fast talking and was able to trade one of my articles on PSYOP for the leaflet.
Genuine Cuban 5 Peso banknote
I later wrote this leaflet up in the International Banknote Society Journal, Volume 30, No. 4, 1991. The banknote leaflet parodied the Cuban 5 peso note of 1961-1965. The genuine Cuban note is green, but the propaganda note is crudely drawn in bright pink-violet.
The text on the front in both English and Spanish is:
SAFE CONDUCT PASS. To those who are resisting the Caribbean Peace Force. You will be taken to a safe place where your needs will be met. Food, clothing, shelter and medical treatment is available.
The back of the banknote leaflet has "SAFE CONDUCT" at the top and bottom of the note in English and Spanish. Sandler points out that:
The use of a Cuban rather than a Grenadian note showed that planners were understandably more concerned with resistance from the Cuban construction battalions than any from the rag-tag Grenadian local defense forces.
Patrick Cates was an 81E Combat Illustrator and a member of the U.S. Army 4th Psychological Operations Group. He was assigned to Grenada and told me that he did several of the leaflets we depict in this article, including the 5 peso facsimile note, the cartoon esto o esto, and took part in the three major bordered leaflets: People of Grenada; Citizens of Grenada; and Cuban Nationals. He told me that it was really funny how basic the art was, using border tape and a varityper machine. He said he is a much better artist today
Philip Taylor agrees in: Global Communications, International Affairs and the Media Since 1945, Routledge, 2002. He says in part:
For the first time since the Second World War, counterfeit enemy currency was reproduced to call attention to other PSYOP messages. The currency in question was that of Cuba, not Grenada, reflecting U.S. concerns that it was the alien Construction workers who were more likely to prove troublesome than the indigenous workers, who were the target of calming and reassuring PSYOP
Note: Taylor is quite wrong with his assertion. In fact, the United States prepared propaganda banknote parodies in both Korea and Vietnam. I have written about them in depth on this website. He might have got confused and thought of counterfeits that were prepared for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. They were true counterfeits and bore no propaganda text that would clearly show they were parodies and not forgeries.
Esto O Esto
Other leaflets are known but it is unclear if they were dropped during the invasion or afterwards as part of the consolidation campaign.
A more gruesome poster carried a drawing of a bleeding corpse and a relieved group of soldiers surrendering with the caption "Esto - o esto" ("This - or this").
The text on the back is:
Your defeat is inevitable. You are facing thousands of troops from six different countries. Cease resistance and return to Cuba with honor where your family await you.
Another leaflet shows the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Three of them are leaders of the communist government, the fourth is death. The text is:
What did the PRA produce? Death and Destruction. Support a New Beginning. Brightness out of Darkness.
Colonel Paddock adds:
There was a very successful PSYOP amnesty program. It used radio, loudspeaker, and face-to-face media to announce the governor generals three-day amnesty program. During this period, more than 1,000 members of the Peoples Revolutionary Army over half of the main force turned themselves in.
Safe Conduct Pass
This pass says on back:
Present this pass to any member of the Caribbean peace keeping force. You will be taken to a safe place where your needs will be met. Food, Medical treatment, shelter, clothing is available.
Weapons Rewards Poster
The U.S. also prepared reward posters for weapons. One shows an AK-47 in the center covered by a red "prohibited" symbol. The text is:
WANTED By Authorities. Functional Rifles SEC 264.00. Functional Pistols SEC 264.00. Cubans Still Hiding Out SEC 1320.00. Caches will be determined by amount of weapons, ammo, and/or explosives. REWARDS are being offered for helping authorities find functional weapons, ammunition and Cubans still hiding out. INFORMATION WILL BE KEPT SECRET and rewards will be given for providing the location of the weapons, ammunition or Cubans. Contact the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force, U.S. Forces, or the Army Claims Office in St. George's. You can also call on the newly established telephone HOTLINE 3206.
In regard to rewards Paddock points out:
This successful program offered rewards for weapons, ammunition, or information leading to the capture of Cubans. Conducted over an eight-week period, this campaign employed face-to-face communication, radio, loudspeakers, posters, handbills and leaflets dropped by helicopters. By mid-January 1984 more than 196 weapons, 400 grenades, 13,500 rounds of ammo, and a Soviet BTR-60 armored personnel carrier were turned in.
Unexploded Ordnance Warning
leaflet-poster depicts skulls at the upper left and right. The text is: U.S.
DANGER! Unexploded ammunition, booby trapped weapons, and equipment in area. DO NOT TOUCH! Large quantities of weapons and equipment were left behind or unexploded. Do not touch anything, it may be booby trapped. Do not risk severe injury or death. Report this equipment to:
CaribbeanSecurity Forces. Danger!
There are certainly dozens of such consolidation leaflets that were prepared during the occupation and before the installation of a new government in Grenada.
The last item we will mention and illustrate is what might be called a "dignity card." One of the most handsome paper products produced by the 4th PSYOP Group was a card produced for the American troops.
The text and illustrations are in a dark blue on bright white cardboard. The title at the top front of the card is "REPRESENT YOUR NATION AND UNIT WITH DIGNITY AND HONOR." The three symbols are military patches, all topped with an "Airborne" tab. The patch at the far left is of the 82nd Airborne Division, the one in the center is the 18th Airborne Corps, and the one at the far right represents Special Forces.
Text on the back of the card is:
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FELLOW SOLDIERS BY KEEPING THE CIVILIAN POPULATION FRIENDLY TO YOU. FOLLOW THESE DO'S AND DON'TS.
1. Do avoid any unnecessary bloodshed.
2. Do avoid making any cultural, racial, and ethnic insults or comments. Be polite and respectful to local population.
3. Do avoid the destruction of monuments, archives, health and religious facilities or other institutions which might directly aggravate the Grenadian or world population. Treat religious centers with respect.
4. Do permit the peaceful operations of farms and businesses operated by the indigenous population. Treat religious centers with respect.
5. Do provide humanitarian assistance when required.
6. Do avoid confusion with the local civil population and minimize damage to their personal property.
7. Do treat refugees or civilian detainees as you would want your own family treated in a similar situation.
8. Do always maintain proper military bearing as you are the direct representative of the President of the U.S. and will be looked upon as such by all who come in contact with you.
1. Don't fraternize with local women or make flirtatious or degrading comments toward them.
2. Don't make derogatory remarks about local customs or the daily activities of the people.
3. Don't display arrogance or intimidate the civilian population.
4. Don't enter into discussions involving politics, religion or economics.
5. Don't take any unauthorized transfer of equipment or goods brought to Grenada.
6. Don't treat the Grenadian as inferior. Many of the people you meet will think and feel differently about things than you do.
7. Don't talk to the press. Refer all media personnel to your commander or authorized spokesman."
Authors note: The dignity card asks that the American troops keep the civilian population friendly. No one is friendlier toward children than the American soldier. In the above photograph Grenadian children climb all over an American jeep. Hopefully that M-60 machinegun is not primed and ready to fire.
Stop Communistic Designs on Grenada
The leaflet was handed out to passing civilians in an attempt to get them to inform on deposed government leaders and Cubans in hiding, and hidden arms caches.
The Best PSYOP
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2 Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division members Specialist 4 Ricky Brown,Timothy Gibson and David North make friends with Grenadian students from a local Catholic school
SP4 Rick Brown said that all the locals he encountered were very glad that the Americans had landed, and said that the Cubans had forced them to attend meetings on the glory of Communism twice a day. They would sound sirens across the island to tell the people that it was time for political instruction.
Rick recalls the dislike of the Grenadian for the Cubans. He told me:
A couple of us were tasked to walk some Cuban prisoners up a jungle trail to the tactical operations center and we were accosted by a rather large Grenadian man with a big knife in his hand. He was crying and said the Cubans had raped both his daughters. We had to protect the Cubans and push him back with our weapons at port arms position. He said he had been in prison and prayed every night for the Americans to come.
Many of the Grenadian troops took off their uniforms and ran away while others assisted us by telling us where the Cubans were hiding.
Defeat U.S. Imperialism
The above Communist poster with an eagle appearing as a vulture expresses the Communist desire for the United States to get out of Grenada
This 1984 anti-American Cuban poster was created by Rafael Enriquez of The Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) and depicts an eagle with U.S. Air Force markings flying over and threatening Grenada.
What may be a minor PSYOP mistake is mentioned in Review of Psychological Operations Lessons Learned from Recent Operational Experience, Christopher J. Lamb, National Defense University Press, Washington, D.C., September 2005. The author mentions a
poster that the enemy used to attack the American government: US
PSYOP often lacks an organized red-teaming effort to improve product quality and assist with damage limitation when effects go awry. PSYOP products can produce untoward effects among the target audiences but also may produce unintended blowback from domestic or international audiences. Operation Urgent Fury in
provides a classic example of a product that was effective in a local target audience but had unintended blowback elsewhere. In this operation, a photograph of a black New Jewel leader seated naked on a chair with only a towel draped across his lap and a white PSYOP soldier standing over him was disseminated as a poster across Grenada to demonstrate to the populace that they should no longer fear their former leaders. Although the photograph generated little negative reaction from the Grenada Grenadapopulace, a subsequent feature of the photo in the WashingtonPost resulted in accusations of racism perpetrated by the military. U.S.
RESCUED FROM RAPE AND TORTURE GRENADA
There is a rumor of an American black operation during the invasion of
. According to the rumor, the Central Intelligence Agency prepared and airdropped a pro-American anti-Communist comic book over the Grenada Islandin an attempt to explain why the Americans had come. The following is what has been implied about this operation.
A private comic book entrepreneur named Malcolm Ater founded Malcolm Ater Productions in
in July 1946. By 1950, Malcolm Ater Productions was called Commercial Comics Inc., now based in New York City . Ater seems to have specialized in political comics, producing them for Senator Scott Lucas, Washington DC ConnecticutGovernor Bowles, Senator Brien McMahon, Congressman Al Loveland and Arkansas Governor Sid McMath. Perhaps because of his independent stature and his location in the nations capitol, the CIA is alleged to have used him to produce a 14-page comic book for Chester . Because this was a black operation, neither the CIA nor Commercial Comics appears anywhere in the book. It is alleged that Ater was paid $35,000 by the CIA for his work on the project. Grenada
The cover of the comic depicts Grenadians being murdered by communists, and then freed by Americans, and finally the joyous celebration of the Grenadian people for the American troops. The inside front cover states that the comic is a product of the Victims of International Communist Emissaries (V.O.I.C.E.) and the introduction is signed by A. C. Langdon, 1984. The story tells of Grenadian citizens held hostage in their own homes and later freed by the Americans, and features Antonio Langdon who was held a prisoner in a communist prison for four and one-half years. Langdon tells American reporters how the communists took over power in
. The book ends with the American rescue and gives an address where Langdon can be reached. Grenada
The problem with this being a black CIA operation is that the invasion was in 1983 and the book clearly is dated 1984. In addition, it depicts the end of the invasion when that could not be known if the book was dropped during the invasion. It appears that this is clearly a privately produced post-invasion booklet. There seems no way this could be a black operation, but if anyone found these comic books on Grenada during or shortly after the invasion I would like to hear from them.
A West Indian bibliography says:
government-backed propaganda comic. By a U.S. UScitizen living in ; claims to have been shot and tortured by the communist forces. Grenada
So, perhaps the comic book was partially paid for by the CIA a year after the attack to explain the
invasion to Grenadians after the fact. U.S.
PSYOP was not only an American prerogative. The Soviets broadcast and published anti-American propaganda during the Grenada invasion. They wished to protect and defend their Cuban allies, busy building and protecting the big air field on Grenada. Colonel Frank L. Goldstein says in Psychological Operations, Air University Press, Maxwell AFB, AL, 1996:
In late 1983, the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya not only attacked the United states for invading Grenada but also accused US forces of using chemical weapons to poison some 2000 Grenadians, including women and children, and of recording their suffering and deaths on film. The gruesome fabrication, which was read by millions of Soviet citizens, further stated that the bodies were shipped back to the United States for additional study.
The author of that article was A. Kuvshinnikov. For a long time I tried to discover who A. Kuvshinnikov was or is, or whether it was a pseudonym. Then another article by A. Kuvshinnikov appeared in Izuestiya on 21 August 1987. This article was said to be from the
UScorrespondent at the Grenada, Kuvshinnikov attempted to set up a parallel between the WWII Nazi death camps with their human experiments and the USSR Foreign Ministry Press Center USinvasion of . Grenada
A Cuban Government Poster for Distribution across Latin America
Daniel Ortega, Maurice Bishop, and Fidel Castro
The Soviets jump on Board. An anti-USA Propaganda Poster
M. Avvakumov and O. Volkov 1984
Grenada Lebanon Nicaragua
Call the USA aggressors to answer!
Dr. Arthur D. Siegel was a medical student in
during the American invasion. He and his four house-mates found themselves under the "protection" of Grenadian troops on the first day of fighting. The five students rented a home known as the Sugar Hill House, which was on a small hill above the sugar mill discotheque about half way between the True Blue and Grenada campuses. Grand Anse University
They awoke to the sounds of airplanes flying overhead. When they went outside to see what was causing the commotion they noticed soldiers dug into the hills around their house. They heard gunfire and assumed that the American military was invading. Radio Free Grenada was broadcasting and telling the Grenadian people to fight to the death and protect their shores from the invaders. As the American troops were landing the Grenadian soldiers surrounded the student's house and an anti-aircraft gun was placed in the front yard.
After some hours together, and the liberal sharing of a few bottles of Clarke's Court Rum and friendly conversation, the medical students convinced the soldiers to let them go to a neighbor's house in the dead of night.
Dr. Siegel found the young Grenadian soldiers to be very courteous and kind and believes that they were as terrified as the students were. The students heard some Spanish spoken, but do not know if there were Cubans among the soldiers. Upon returning to their house a day later they found discarded military uniforms and AK-47 rifles on the living room floor. Their luggage had been looted and it was clear that the deserting soldiers had decided that it was safer to be in civilian clothing.
Medical Students with their Lockheed C-141 Starlifter
On the third day of the invasion the medical students located a patrol of American Airborne Rangers and were immediately escorted on foot to the
True Blue campus. After a few hours, they were airlifted home to St. George's University Medical School . The students scattered to different universities to finish their training, but Dr. Siegel enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness of the people of Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and ultimately returned to the island to finish his medical training. Grenada
The two posters in this section were brought home by Dr. Siegel at the time of his rescue.
As matters between the
United Statesand came to a head a brochure was printed and distributed (possibly by the Cubans) entitled "Unite to Defend our Airport." Grenada
The text is long but we quote the opening paragraph:
The United States Government has mounted a massive campaign to stop the construction of our
! This campaign is now an open one. It has been reported in the newspapers in Europe and even in the International Airport itself. United States
Was there a Classified Reason to Attack Grenada?
When you talked about Grenada after the short war there were many rumors that surrounded the attack. One very popular one was that President Reagan was so infuriated at the killing of U.S. Marines in Lebanon that having no enemy to respond to, he decided to attack the Communists in Grenada. I heard that many times, and knowing the staunch anti-Communist President Reagan, it seemed possible. Years later a much more detailed story came out.
Richard C. Thornton mentioned the invasion in an article entitled Grenada: Preemptive Strike, in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, fall and winter 2008/2009. <
Thornton says that in 1982, Soviet IL-76 aircraft could reach Grenada on a nonstop, direct flight. From Grenada, the SS-20 missile could target most of the United States. Moscow appeared to have a solid ally in Maurice Bishop, and a modern airport, with a 10,000-foot runway was under construction with Cuban and other soviet-bloc assistance. It was scheduled to open about 13 March 1984.
In late March 1982, Washington believed it would be many months before Grenada would be ready to receive Soviet missiles. On 10 March, President Reagan identified Grenada as a key element in Soviet and Cuban strategy. He ridiculed the views of some experts that construction on Grenada was simply to encourage the export of nutmeg. It wasnt nutmeg that was at stake here, he said, but U.S. national security. On 23 March, he showed a photograph of the new airport being built in Grenada with its 10,000 foot runway. Moscow could move very quickly to present the United States with a fait accompli. The only way to prevent deployment of Soviet missiles was to deprive the Soviets of a place to deploy. The only way to do that was direct action.
By October, Bishop had been murdered by hardline Communists more in-line with Russian wishes and there were signs of buildings near the runway that could house Soviet missiles. Castro had involved himself with Grenada and had troops on the island but now backed off afraid that the American fleet sailing nearby might be aimed at Cuba. Reagan made the decision to invade early in the morning of 22 October. Early on 23 October, a truck bomb was driven into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, exploded and killed 241 Marines. There was some thought that this was a Soviet plan to slow American action in Grenada. If so, it did not work. That evening Reagan signed the attack order. Thornton ends by saying that the actual reason for the invasion, to preempt a Soviet attempt to deploy SS-20 missiles that could threaten the United States, was never stated.
We should add that the rush to take the island before The Soviet Union could deploy missiles might have also been the cause of all the confusion and mistakes that occurred during the invasion. This was a race and the U.S. believed it could not be late.
Operation Urgent Fury Certificate of Participation
Americans often complain that they seldom receive thanks for sacrifices they have made in support of other nations. There are notable exceptions. Many nations in Europe, especially Belgium and France have supported American military cemeteries and honor the dead who fought to liberate their countries. Grenada is a case in point. Although much of the world criticized the United States for taking part in the invasion of Grenada, the people themselves named 25 October as a national holiday, called Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate the 1983 American-led invasion of Grenada.
The night-time Operations Duty officer at the 1st Special Operations Command Tactical Operation Center told me that one of the PSYOP troops brought back a cassette tape of a song sung by an old Grenadian entitled Thank you President Reagan. It is impossible to say if that song was actually written by the old man in which case it was not propaganda, or written by the PSYOP people in which case it would definitely be PSYOP. If legitimate, it would seem to be a true reflection of the gratitude of the Grenadian people.
A Monument left to commemorate the American Invasion
After the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait the people left an old house called The Qurain House that had been partially destroyed by the Iraqis and where 12 Kuwaiti patriots were martyred. It was an unofficial monument to let the people remember. 30 years after the Grenada invasion, this graffiti monument still stood at one of the intersections outside of St. Georges. It has the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division and the words:
Thank God for the U.S and Caribbean Heroes of Freedom.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Keith Nightingale added in the November 2013 American Legion Magazine:
As our departure neared, I was continuously met by small groups of villagers pressing petitions on me for Grenada to become the 51st U.S. state. These entreaties steadily increased as out time on the island grew shorter Never have so many been gratified by so few .
Colonel Borchini of the 4th PSYOP Group agrees:
Grenada was a pretty simple operation in some respects in terms of the population. We didn't have to win their hearts and minds. When I got to current Grenada after the fighting was over there were signs up all over that said Make Grenada the fifty-first state. Grenada was different, much different, from the operations that we're facing today, and different from the other operations that have occurred since Grenada.
On the 12th Anniversary of the American Liberation of Grenada the island nation issued this commemorative stamp sheet in gratitude
A Commemorative Grenada Million Dollar Banknote
Some patriotic numismatist dealer apparently prepared a banknote to commemorate the Grenada successful operation. The front of the fake note depicts Presidents Reagan and Bush and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John William Vessey Jr. The back of the banknote depicts an American helicopter and trooper and a map of the island of Grenada.
Commemorative Grenada postcard depicting some of the weapons collected
The author encourages interested readers who may have additional information or personal experiences with Grenada and Operation Urgent Fury to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 6 June 2005