Invasion of Grenada
|Operation Urgent Fury|
|Part of the Cold War|
A Sikorsky CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter of the U.S. Marine Corps hovers above the ground near an abandoned Soviet ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft weapon during the invasion of Grenada in 1983.
| United States
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
| PRG of Grenada
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ronald Reagan
Joseph Metcalf III
| Hudson Austin
722:6, 26, 62
|Casualties and losses|
116 wounded:6, 62
Operation Urgent Fury was a 1983 United States-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of about 91,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela, that resulted in a U.S. victory within a matter of weeks. Triggered by the house arrest and murder of the leader of the coup which had brought a revolutionary government to power for the preceding four years, the invasion resulted in a restoration of the pre-revolutionary regime.
Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974 but retained the British monarch as head of state. The leftist New Jewel Movement, which was seen favorably by much of the Grenadan population, seized power in a coup in 1979, suspending the constitution. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary prime minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began early on 25 October 1983, just two days after the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut (early 23 October Beirut time).
The U.S. Army's Rapid Deployment Force (1st, 2nd Ranger Battalions and 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers), U.S. Marines, U.S. Army Delta Force, and U.S. Navy SEALs and other combined forces constituted the 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System (RSS) defeated Grenadian resistance after a low-altitude airborne assault by the 75th Rangers on Point Salines Airport on the southern end of the island, and a Marine helicopter and amphibious landing occurred on the northern end at Pearl's Airfield shortly afterward. The military government of Hudson Austin was deposed and replaced by a government appointed by Governor-General Paul Scoon until elections were held in 1984.
While the invasion enjoyed broad public support in the United States, and received support from some sectors in Grenada from local groups who viewed the postcoup regime as illegitimate, it was criticized by the United Kingdom and Canada. An attempted United Nations General Assembly resolution, which would have condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law" was vetoed by the United States in the Security Council. The U.S. awarded more than 5,000 medals for merit and valor.
The date of the invasion is now a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, and the Point Salines International Airport was renamed in honor of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The invasion highlighted issues with communication and coordination between the branches of the United States military, contributing to investigations and sweeping changes, in the form of the Goldwater-Nichols Act and other reorganizations.
- 1 Background
- 2 Invasion
- 3 Reaction in the United States
- 4 International reaction
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 Order of battle
- 7 Notes
- 8 Further reading
- 9 Primary sources
- 10 External links
Sir Eric Gairy had led Grenada to independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. His term in office coincided with civil strife in Grenada. The political environment was highly charged and although Gairy—head of the Grenada United Labour Party—claimed victory in the general election of 1976, the opposition did not accept the result as legitimate. The civil strife took the form of street violence between Gairy's private army, the Mongoose Gang, and gangs organized by the New Jewel Movement. In the late 1970s the NJM began planning to overthrow the government. Party members began to receive military training outside of Grenada. On 13 March 1979, while Gairy was out of the country, the NJM—led by Maurice Bishop—launched an armed revolution and overthrew the government, establishing the People's Revolutionary Government.
On 16 October 1983, a party faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard seized power. Bishop was placed under house arrest. Mass protests against the action led to Bishop's escaping detention and reasserting his authority as the head of the government. Bishop was eventually captured and murdered along with several government officials loyal to him. The army under Hudson Austin then stepped in and formed a military council to rule the country. The governor-general, Paul Scoon, was placed under house arrest. The army announced a four-day total curfew where anyone seen on the streets would be subject to summary execution.
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as well as the nations of Barbados and Jamaica, appealed to the United States for assistance. According to a reporter for The New York Times, this formal appeal was at the request of the U.S. government, which had already decided to take military action. U.S. officials cited the murder of Bishop and general political instability in a country near U.S. borders, as well as the presence of U.S. medical students at St. George's University, as reasons for military action. The reporter also claimed that the latter reason was cited in order to gain public support.:1, 57 It was later revealed that Grenada's governor-general, Paul Scoon, had requested the invasion through secret diplomatic channels. Scoon was well within his rights to take this action under the reserve powers vested in the Crown.
On 25 October, Grenada was invaded by the combined forces of the United States and the Regional Security System (RSS) based in Barbados, in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. The U.S. stated this was done at the request of the prime ministers of Barbados and Dominica, Tom Adams and Dame Eugenia Charles, respectively. Nonetheless, the invasion was highly criticized by the governments in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. The United Nations General Assembly condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law" by a vote of 108 in favour to 9, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution, which failed to pass when vetoed by the United States.
The Bishop government began constructing the Point Salines International Airport with the help of Britain, Cuba, Libya, Algeria, and other nations. The airport had been first proposed by the British government in 1954, when Grenada was still a British colony. It had been designed by Canadians, underwritten by the British government, and partly built by a London firm. The U.S. government accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military buildup in the Caribbean based upon the 9,000-foot length, which could accommodate the largest Soviet aircraft like the An-12, An-22, and the An-124, which would enhance the Soviet and Cuban transportation of weapons to Central American insurgents and expand Soviet regional influence. Bishop's government claimed that the airport was built to accommodate commercial aircraft carrying tourists, pointing out that such jets could not land at Pearl's Airstrip on the island's north end (5,200 feet) and could not be expanded because its runway abutted a mountain and the ocean at the other end.
In 1983, then-member of the United States House of Representatives Ron Dellums (D, California), traveled to Grenada on a fact-finding mission, having been invited by the country's prime minister. Dellums described his findings before Congress:
... based on my personal observations, discussion and analysis of the new international airport under construction in Grenada, it is my conclusion that this project is specifically now and has always been for the purpose of economic development and is not for military use. ... It is my thought that it is absurd, patronizing, and totally unwarranted for the United States government to charge that this airport poses a military threat to the United States' national security.
In March 1983, President Ronald Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the "Soviet-Cuban militarization" of the Caribbean as evidenced by the excessively long airplane runway being built, as well as intelligence sources indicating increased Soviet interest in the island. He said that the 9,000-foot (2,700 m) runway and the numerous fuel storage tanks were unnecessary for commercial flights, and that evidence pointed that the airport was to become a Cuban-Soviet forward military airbase.
The invasion, which commenced at 05:00 on 25 October 1983, two days after the 23 October 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 241 American servicemen. American forces refuelled and departed from the Grantley Adams International Airport on the nearby Caribbean island of Barbados before daybreak en route to Grenada. It was the first major operation conducted by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III, Commander Second Fleet, was the overall commander of U.S. forces, designated Joint Task Force 120, which included elements of each military service and multiple special operations units. Fighting continued for several days and the total number of U.S. troops reached some 7,000 along with 300 troops from the OAS. The invading forces encountered about 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and about 700 Cubans.
The nature of the Cuban military presence in Grenada was more complex than initially suggested. As in Angola, Ethiopia, and other nations with large contingents of Cuban troops, the line between civilians and military personnel was blurred. For example, Fidel Castro often described Cuban construction crews deployed overseas as "workers and soldiers at the same time"; the duality of their role being consistent with Havana's 'citizen soldier' tradition. According to journalist Bob Woodward in his book Veil, captured "military advisers" from the aforementioned countries were actually accredited diplomats and included their dependents. None took any actual part in the fighting. Other historians have asserted that most of the supposed civil technicians on Grenada were Cuban special forces and combat engineers.
Official U.S. sources state that some of their opponents were well prepared and well positioned and put up stubborn resistance, to the extent that the U.S. called in two battalions of reinforcements on the evening of 26 October. The total naval and air superiority of the coalition forces—including helicopter gunships and naval gunfire support as well as members of reserve Navy SEALs, had overwhelmed the defenders.
Nearly 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines had participated in Operation Urgent Fury along with 353 Caribbean allies of the Caribbean Peace Forces. U.S. forces sustained 19 killed and 116 wounded; Cuban forces sustained 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 combatants captured. Grenadian forces casualties were 45 killed and 358 wounded; at least 24 civilians were killed, 18 of whom were killed in the accidental bombing of a Grenadian mental hospital.:62
Reaction in the United States
A month after the invasion, Time magazine described it as having "broad popular support." A congressional study group concluded that the invasion had been justified, as most members felt that U.S. students at the university near a contested runway could have been taken hostage as U.S. diplomats in Iran had been four years previously. The group's report caused House Speaker Tip O'Neill to change his position on the issue from opposition to support.
However, some members of the study group dissented from its findings. Congressman Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, stated: "Not a single American child nor single American national was in any way placed in danger or placed in a hostage situation prior to the invasion." The Congressional Black Caucus denounced the invasion and seven Democratic congressmen, led by Ted Weiss, introduced an unsuccessful resolution to impeach Ronald Reagan.
In the evening of 25 October 1983 by telephone, on the newscast Nightline, anchor Ted Koppel spoke to medical students on Grenada who stated that they were safe and did not feel their lives were in danger. The next evening, again by telephone, medical students told Koppel how grateful they were for the invasion and the Army Rangers, which probably saved their lives. State Department officials had assured the medical students that they would be able to complete their medical school education in the United States.
By a vote of 108 in favour to 9 (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, El Salvador, Israel, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States) voting against, with 27 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly adopted General Assembly Resolution 38/7, which "deeply deplores the armed intervention in Grenada, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that State." The USSR government observed that Grenada had for a long time been the object of United States threats, that the invasion violated international law, and that no small nation not to the liking of the United States would find itself safe if the aggression against Grenada was not rebuffed. The governments of some countries stated that the United States intervention was a return to the era of barbarism. The governments of other countries said the United States by its invasion had violated several treaties and conventions to which it was a party.
A similar resolution was discussed in the United Nations Security Council and although receiving widespread support it was ultimately vetoed by the United States. President of the United States Ronald Reagan, when asked if he was concerned by the lopsided 108-9 vote in the UN General Assembly said "it didn't upset my breakfast at all."
Grenada is part of the Commonwealth of Nations and, following the invasion, it requested help from other Commonwealth members. The invasion was opposed by the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada, among others.:50 British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally opposed the U.S. invasion, and the British Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, announced to the British House of Commons on the day before the invasion that he had no knowledge of any possible U.S. intervention. At 12:30 am Tuesday 25 October, on the morning of the invasion, Thatcher sent a message to Reagan:
This action will be seen as intervention by a Western country in the internal affairs of a small independent nation, however unattractive its regime. I ask you to consider this in the context of our wider East/West relations and of the fact that we will be having in the next few days to present to our Parliament and people the siting of Cruise missiles in this country. I must ask you to think most carefully about these points. I cannot conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication. You asked for my advice. I have set it out and hope that even at this late stage you will take it into account before events are irrevocable. (The full text remains classified.)
When she telephoned Reagan twenty minutes later, he assured Thatcher that an invasion was not contemplated. Reagan later said, "She was very adamant and continued to insist that we cancel our landings on Grenada. I couldn't tell her that it had already begun."
In November 2014, a recorded telephone conversation between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was published, which captured an apologetic Reagan discussing the invasion with Margaret Thatcher. In this conversation, Reagan expressed regret over any embarrassment caused due to US actions. He also cited lack of time and concerns regarding leaks as the reason for not informing her of the invasion sooner. Thatcher expressed her comprehension for the secrecy and why he had not been more open with her, saying she had been subject to similar restrictions at the time of the Falklands invasion. The publishing of this, and other, recordings also confirmed that Reagan continued the practice of recording White House conversations after Nixon's Watergate scandal, albeit for the purpose of later assistance in transcription.
Following the U.S. victory, Scoon assumed power as interim head of government. He formed an advisory council which named Nicholas Brathwaite as interim prime minister pending new elections. Democratic elections held in December 1984 were won by the Grenada National Party and a government was formed led by Prime Minister Herbert Blaize.
U.S. forces remained in Grenada after combat operations finished in December as part of Operation Island Breeze. Elements remaining, including military police, special forces, and a specialized intelligence detachment, performed security missions and assisted members of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force and the Royal Grenadian Police Force.
The invasion showed problems with the U.S. government's "information apparatus," which Time described as still being in "some disarray" three weeks after the invasion. For example, the U.S. State Department falsely claimed that a mass grave had been discovered that held 100 bodies of islanders who had been killed by Communist forces. Major General Norman Schwarzkopf, deputy commander of the invasion force, said that 160 Grenadian soldiers and 71 Cubans had been killed during the invasion; the Pentagon had given a much lower count of 59 Cuban and Grenadian deaths. Ronald H. Cole's report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed an even lower count.
Also of concern were the problems that the invasion showed with the military. There was a lack of intelligence about Grenada, which exacerbated the difficulties faced by the quickly assembled invasion force. For example, it was not known that the students were actually at two different campuses and there was a thirty-hour delay in reaching students at the second campus. Maps provided to soldiers on the ground were tourist maps on which military grid reference lines were drawn by hand to report locations of units and request artillery and aircraft fire support. They also did not show topography and were not marked with crucial positions. U.S. Navy ships providing naval gunfire and U.S. Marine, U.S. Air Force and navy fighter/bomber support aircraft providing close air support mistakenly fired upon and killed U.S. ground forces due to differences in maps and location coordinates, data, and methods of calling for fire support. Communications between services were also noted as not being compatible and hindered the coordination of operations. The landing strip was drawn-in by hand on the map given to some members of the invasion force.
A heavily fictionalized account of the invasion from a U.S. military perspective is shown in the 1986 Clint Eastwood motion picture Heartbreak Ridge, in which marines replaced the actual roles of army units. Due to the movie's portrayal of several incompetent officers and NCOs, the army opted out its military support of the movie.
Analysis by the U.S. Department of Defense showed a need for improved communications and coordination between the branches of the U.S. forces. U.S. Congressional investigations of many of the reported problems resulted in the most important legislative change affecting the U.S. military organization, doctrine, career progression, and operating procedures since the end of World War II - the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (Pub. L.99-433).
The Goldwater-Nichols Act reworked the command structure of the United States military, thereby making the most sweeping changes to the United States Department of Defense since the department was established in the National Security Act of 1947. It increased the powers of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and created the concept of a truly unified joint U.S. forces (i.e., Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy forces organized under one command). One of the first reorganizations resulting from both the Department of Defense analysis and the legislation was the formation of the U.S. Special Operations Command in 1987.
October 25 is a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate the invasion.
In 2008, the Government of Grenada announced a move to build a monument to honour the Cubans killed during the invasion. At the time of the announcement the Cuban and Grenadian governments are still seeking to locate a suitable site for the monument. On 29 May 2009 the Point Salines International Airport was officially renamed in honour of the slain pre-coup leader Maurice Bishop by the Government of Grenada.
Order of battle
Leading joint forces, Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III, COMSECONDFLT, became Commander, Joint Task Force 120 (CJTF 120), and commanded units from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps. Vice Admiral Metcalf assigned to the amphibious force, designated Task Force 124, the mission of seizing the Pearls Airport and the port of Grenville, and of neutralizing any opposing forces in the area.:6 Simultaneously, Army Rangers (Task Force 121) - together with elements of the 82d Airborne Division (Task Force 123) - would secure points at the southern end of the island, including the nearly completed jet airfield under construction near Point Salines. Task Group 20.5, a carrier battle group built around USS Independence (CV-62), and Air Force elements would support the ground forces.:6
US ground forces
- US Army 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions 75th Infantry Regiment conducted a low-level parachute assault to secure Point Salinas Airport. Hunter Army Airfield, GA and Ft. Lewis, WA
- US Army 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (AKA Delta Force) Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 82nd Airborne Division - 2nd Brigade Task Force (325th Airborne Infantry Regiment plus supporting units) and 3rd Brigade Task Force (1st and 2nd Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, plus supporting units). Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army Co E (Scout), 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division (inactivated in 1984 and assets used to form: Co E (Long Range Surveillance) 109th MI Battalion, 9th Infantry Division (Motorized)), Fort Lewis, WA
- US Army 27th Engineer Battalion of the 20th Engineer Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 548th Engineer Battalion Ft Bragg, NC
- US Army 160th Aviation Battalion Ft Campbell, KY
- US Army 18th Aviation Company, 269th Aviation Battalion Ft. Bragg, NC
- 1st and 2nd 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion, Fort Bragg N.C.
- 1 SQN 17 Air Cavalry Airborne, Fort Bragg N.C.
- US Army 65th MP Company (Airborne), 118th MP Company (Airborne), and HHD, 503rd MP Battalion (Airborne) of the 16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne), XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 411th MP Company of the 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps, Ft. Hood, Texas
- US Army 35th Signal Brigade, Ft. Bragg, NC
- US Army 50th Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, Ft. Bragg, NC
- US Army 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) - provided loudspeaker support and dissemination of informational pamphlets. Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 1st Corps Support Command COSCOM, 7th Trans Battalion, 546th LMT Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 44th Medical Brigade - Personnel from the 44th Medical Brigade and operational units including the 5th MASH were deployed. Fort Bragg, NC
- US Army 82nd Finance Company MPT
- US Marine Corps 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit Camp Lejeune, NC
- US Navy SEAL Team 4 Little Creek, VA and US Navy SEAL Team 6 Virginia Beach, VA
- US Air Force Detachment 1, 507th Tactical Air Control Wing (Fort Bragg, NC) - jump qualified TACPs who were attached to and deployed with the 82d Airborne, Fort Bragg, NC (now the 14th ASOS, part of the 18th Air Support Operations Group)
- US Air Force 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron (Shaw AFB, SC) - jump qualified FACs who were attached to and deployed with Detachment 1, 507th Tac Air Control Wg and the 82d Airborne, Fort Bragg, NC
- US Air Force 5th Weather Squadron, 5th Weather Wing (MAC) Fort Bragg, NC - jump qualified Combat Weathermen who are attached and deployed with the 82nd, now in AFSOC
U.S. Air Force
- U.S. Air National Guard - provided A-7D Corsair II ground-attack aircraft for close air support
- 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing - provided close air support for allied forces with A-10 Warthogs
- 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing - provided air superiority cover for allied forces with F-15 Eagles
- 437th Military Airlift Wing - provided airlift support with C-141 Starlifters
- 16th Special Operations Wing - flew AC-130H Spectre gunships
- 317th Military Airlift Wing - provided airlift support with Lockheed C-130 Hercules (Pope AFB NC) Fort Bragg, NC
- 63d Military Airlift Wing - 63rd Security Police Squadron provided airfield security support - (Norton AFB CA)
- 443rd Airlift Wing,443rd Security Police Squadron (Altus AFB, Oklahoma) - provided a 44 man Airbase Ground Defence flight (Oct-Nov 1983)
- 19th Air Refueling Wing - provided aerial refueling support for all other aircraft
- 507th Tactical Air Control Wing (elements of the 21st TASS at Shaw AFB, SC and Detachment 1, Fort Bragg, NC) - provided Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) in support of the 82nd Airborne Division
- 552nd ACW Boeing E-3A AWACS
- 62nd Security Police Group (Provisional) Multi Squadron Law Enforcement & Security Forces - Prisoner detaining and transport attached to 82nd Airborne
- 60th Military Airlift Wing- 60th Security Police Squadron Travis AFB CA provided airfield security in Grenada as well as Barbados.
Two formations of U.S. warship took part in the invasion. Amphibious Squadron Four comprised USS Guam (LPH-9), USS Barnstable County (LST-1197), USS Manitowoc (LST-1180), USS Fort Snelling (LSD-30), and USS Trenton (LPD-14). The Independence carrier battle group, Carrier Group Four, was allocated the designation Task Group 20.5 for the operation. Independence Carrier Battle Group
|Surface warships||Carrier Air Wing Six (CVW-6) squadrons embarked aboard flagship USS Independence (CV-62)|
|USS Richmond K. Turner (CG-20)||Fighter Squadron 14 (VF-14): 13 F-14A||Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 122 (VAW-122): 4 E-2C|
|USS Coontz (DDG-40)||Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32): 14 F-14A||Electronic Attack Squadron 131 (VAQ-131): 4 EA-6B|
|USS Moosbrugger (DD-980)||Attack Squadron 176 (VA-176): 16 A-6E/KA-6D||Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (15 HS-15): 6 SH-3H|
|USS Caron (DD-970)||Attack Squadron 87 (VA-87): 12 A-7E||Sea Control Squadron 28 (VS-28): 10 S-3A|
|USS Clifton Sprague (FFG-16)||Attack Squadron 15 (VA-15): 12 A-7E||COD: 1 C-1A|
|USS Suribachi (AE-21)||----||----|
In addition, the following ships supported naval operations:
USS Kidd (DDG-993),USS Aquila (PHM-4), USS Aubrey Fitch (FFG-34), USS Briscoe (DD-977), USS Portsmouth (SSN-707), USS Recovery (ARS-43), USS Saipan (LHA-2), USS Sampson (DDG-10), USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13), USS John L. Hall (FFG-32), USS Silversides (SSN-679), USS Taurus (PHM-3), and USS Caloosahatchee (AO-98)
U.S. Coast Guard
USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-718) USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Operation Urgent Fury.|
- Invasion of Grenada and Its Political Repercussions from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- Operation: Urgent Fury, Grenada
- The 1983 Invasion of Grenada, Operation: Urgent Fury
- Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury (23 October - 21 November 1983) - Naval History & Heritage Command - U.S. Navy
- Grenada - a 1984 comic book about the invasion written by the CIA.