It was the early morning on the 25th of October 1983 when one of the first joint operations was launched on a small island called Grenada. The US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines all combined in what would later become a blueprint for how we work together jointly; even though this operation did not go off as smooth as we think. What initially was planned to be an evacuation mission, expanded into a larger scale military operation designed to enhance the stability of the region1.
In 1979 Maurice Bishop, a Marxist, dissatisfied with economic conditions and the government of Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy conducted a bloodless coup and seized power. Maurice Bishop was the leader of ...view middle of the document...
This also is what caused a lot of the confusion.
On the 19th of October a meeting was held with Vice Admiral Arthur S. Moreau JR., Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The danger to the American medical students was discussed as well as the potential danger to the rest of the American civilians on the island. They also noted the presence of approximately six hundred Cubans and two Cuban vessels moored in St. George’s Harbor. VADM Moreau was advised that the JCS should plan for the worst case scenario, one that would entail the US military forces evacuating civilians in the face of armed opposition from Grenadian and Cuban forces.3
Admiral Moreau at that point informed those at the meeting that LTG Prillman was alerting the United States Commander in Chief Atlantic Command (USCINCLANT) on the need to plan a noncombatant evacuation operation. According to Admiral Moreau, a decision to plan any kind of combat operation would have to come from the Vice President in the Special Situation Group or in the National Security Planning, by the President.
That night ADM McDonald received the JCS warning order (WARNO) which was signed by GEN Vessey. He was instructed to come up with alternative courses of action for a three-to-five day noncombatant evacuation operation; which he would have to plan in one night. Basically what his staff did was look at an exercise that happened two years earlier by Rangers and Marines on another Caribbean island. Utilizing some revisions that were made in contingency planning and the results of the exercise in 1981 a plan was delivered very early on the morning of the 20th.
One big hiccup once the plan had been developed as NEO was the lack of actionable intelligence. Since 1979, when Grenada starting tying itself in with Cuba and the Soviet Union, the US was not able to gather a lot of actionable or usable intelligence. So because of this they did not know the exact location of the Grenadian troops or have current topographic photography allowing them to pick proper drop zones for the paratroopers. This made picking the right sites very difficult.
On the 21st GEN Vessey called ADM McDonald to tell him of the decision to expand the original plan into one that planned for a possible military operation to deter or disarm Grenadian and Cuban forces. Once this decision had been made, the road to Operation Urgent Fury was started. A noncombatant evacuation plan just became a full scale military operation.
The first event that took place was the Independence battle group was directed into the vicinity of Grenada. This became a trigger for things to get sketchy. CBS was set to air the story about the battle group changing destination and this forced all communications to become very stringent. OPSEC became so thorough that it actually left out some of the key agencies that should have been involved in the planning such as the Strategic Air Command as well as some of the Joint Staff levels....