At first glance, our Pic of the Day gives off a very World War II-esque vibe. But no, these are US warfighters in Grenada in October of 1983. Hell, that’s even before my day. It’s hard to believe that it was 40 years ago this month.

US Rangers In Grenada
US Rangers hold an impromptu meeting in Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury.

Unexpected Challenges

In 1983, the US military faced an unexpected challenge, demonstrating the need for flexibility in military strategy. After the devastating attack on U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, many anticipated an intervention in Lebanon when the order came to mobilize troops. Instead, their sights were set on Grenada, a small Caribbean nation most had never heard of.

Grenada had gained independence from the UK less than a decade prior, but it wasn’t a hotspot on the US radar. Yet political upheaval on the island, led by Marxist-Leninist leader Maurice Bishop, sparked concern. His growing ties with Cuba and the construction of a sizeable airfield, Port Salines Airport, fueled US suspicions. The airport’s ability to accommodate significant Soviet aircraft particularly alarmed American intelligence despite its seemingly benign design by a Canadian firm.

The political climate on the island intensified when Bishop was brutally ousted by his faction in October 1983. With 600 US medical students on Grenadian soil, the specter of the recent Iran Hostage Crisis loomed large, prompting US President Ronald Reagan to act.

A Delta Force Mission In America’s Backyard

Soldiers From the 82nd Airborne Were Sent to Downtown Fayetteville to Buy Tourist Maps

However, there was a significant challenge: the US had limited knowledge of Grenada. As Philip Kukielski detailed, military planners had to resort to tourist maps from local stores, manually overlaying them with grid lines. They even sourced periodicals like “The Economist” to gather intel on the island. This was not our finest hour as a military superpower.

Though Grenada had allies in the form of Cuba and received tacit support from the Soviet Union, they stood isolated when push came to shove. Despite its friendship with the ousted Bishop, Cuba, and the Soviets, unwilling to escalate tensions, did not intervene.

The US intervention, dubbed “Operation Urgent Fury,” was a mismatch in military might. Navy SEALs, the 75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Force, and U.S. Marines executed synchronized operations to secure the island, aiming to ensure the safety of the American medical students and restore peace.