I was surprised to find out that before he was “Stormin’ Norman” leading coalition forces to a swift victory against Iraqi forces during the Gulf War, he was the newly promoted Brigadier General Norman Schwarzkopf of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. There Schwarzkopf found himself in charge of ground forces in Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury, in 1983, as the Deputy Commander to Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III.

While Metcalf was in charge of the entire invasion force (Joint Task Force 120), the Army found it prudent to send in Schwarzkopf to make sure ground forces were being properly utilized. Schwarzkopf would take charge of two Ranger Battalions, the 82nd Airborne’s Ready Reaction Brigade, a large contingent of JSOCs Tier 1 units, and the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit.

Point Salines Airport, Grenada
Point Salines Airport, Grenada

The most important component of the assault on the island nation was to be the combat parachute jump by the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions on Point Salines Airport on the Southern end of Grenada. Combat operations revolved around the Rangers securing the airport to bring in the remainder of ground forces to enter the fight. Once the airport was secured, the Rangers’ follow on mission was to secure the estimated 500+ U.S. citizens located at the True Blue campus 2 kilometers to the East of the drop zone – one of the primary reasons the U.S. invaded Grenada.

The original plan was for an eight-man team from the brand new SEAL Team 6 to infiltrate off the coast, west of the airport. ST6 was to gain eyes on the objective and suppress any anti-aircraft positions ordered by a small team of Combat Controllers who were to insert shortly after.

Aside from the SEALs’ objective, another operation in support of the airborne assault was to be undertaken by Delta Force’s B Squadron, along with elements from Charlie Company 1st Ranger Battalion. The Delta-led force was to conduct a helicopter assault against Richmond Hill Prison in the early morning hours of the 25th to rescue any political prisoners held there. This was to occur before the dawn combat jump by the Rangers. Following the assault against the prison, Delta was to fly five kilometers South and land in the hills overlooking the airport to suppress any hidden enemy positions that could impede the jump.

Map of combat units during the Grenada invasion
Map of combat units during the invasion: Green indicates the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit, “Special Forces” denotes JSOC units Delta and ST6, and of course the Ranger elements in the South denoted in blue. *There were no Army SF units in Grenada*

Unfortunately both planned events didn’t happen the way they should have, as the SEALs were dropped into rough seas that led to the death of four of their team-members. Searching for their fellow operators, the men didn’t make it to the airport in time for the Ranger assault.

For the men of B Squadron, delays taking off from Barbados had cost them valuable time in their assault against the prison. Once airborne, the men in the choppers sustained heavy casualties as they neared the objective, which turned out to be abandoned. The heavily damaged helicopters returned to the Navy carriers off the coast to refit and regroup as almost 50% of the assault force had been wounded. The men who could still fight hopped on board the helicopters to finish the job. The operators touched down on the hills just as the planes began dropping the Rangers, giving them no time to silence any hidden machine gun nests.

One of the Delta operators on the ground watching the jump later wrote: “We 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. Goddamn, what a stirring sight! This was the first combat parachute operation since the Second World War.”