Airborne-amphibious rescue of Grenada--Jump under 500 feet with U.S. Army
Rangers below Cuban anti-aircraft guns! Click on thumbnails to view larger image
of pictures and experience the first victory since Vietnam in the Cold War!
On October 19, 1983, Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and a number of his top
aides were executed by the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA), on orders from a radical
new political group known as the "Revolutionary Military Council." Intending to replace
Bishop's Marxist government with an even more virulent Marxist regime, General
Hudson Austin and his sixteen member RMC quickly moved to assume control of the
island-nation. Fears of the possibility of a new Soviet ally so close to U.S. shores (a fear
bolstered by the recent construction of a 10,000 foot runway capable of handling the
largest military transports), and the fact that hundreds of U.S. citizens resided in Grenada
and might possibly be in danger, caused President Reagan to act to prevent a potentially
grave situation from developing. He authorized the U.S. military to intervene effect a
noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) to rescue the American students and, in no
small part, to restore a more mainstream government on Grenada.
The U.S. Special Operations (spec ops) community was still in shock and turmoil after
marine-piloted navy RH-53D mine-sweeping helicopters ruined the Iranian hostage
rescue attempt in 1980. Urgent Fury was a chance for spec ops leaders to restore faith in
special operations warfare. The mission included all the current warriors of the Special
Operations Command: U.S. Army Rangers supported by the 82nd Airborne Division;
Navy Seals; Army "Delta Force"; Air Force Special Tactics Combat Control Teams
(CCT), and Squadrons with MC-130 Combat Talon and AC-130 Spectre gunships with
the chance inclusion of the 22nd marine amphibious unit (MAU) originally headed to
relieve the Battalion Landing Team packed inside one building in Lebanon, that
ironically the next day allowed suicide terrorists to wipe them out in a truck bomb blast.
All of these units were all deployed on the Grenada Task Force.
Although the invasion officially started on Oct 25th, D-Day, the first troops to enter on
Grenada's territory were the Navy SEa Air Land teams or (Seals). On Oct 23rd, Navy
Seal Team 6 launched a mission to reconnoiter the Point Salines airport. They were
tasked to gather intelligence on the condition of the runway for an Airborne assault by
U.S. Army Rangers. They were also to place signal beacons on the ground to guide the
Rangers to the correct target landing zone (LZ). The Seals static-line parachuted from the
tailgate of a C-130 cargo plane. The 11 Seals, 1 USAF Combat Controller and three
Zodiac F470 rubber boats exited the aircraft, over open ocean, from an altitude of 500 ft.
Four of the Seals, overburdened with excessive equipment and tangled in their
parachutes, drowned upon landing in the water. After a brief search for the missing Seals,
the remaining Seal boat teams resumed their mission. Before they could gain the beach,
they were forced to evade an enemy patrol boat. During the evasion, the Zodiac's
gasoline-powered outboard motor was swamped and refused to start. The Seals were
forced to abort the mission and paddle to a pickup point.
The next night, the Seals were deployed again on the same mission. This time they
launched over sea in the same Zodiacs as before. As they reached the beach, they
encountered a vicious surf which swamped the boats. The Seals lost most of their
equipment and were again forced to abort. They returned to their pickup point without
gathering any hard intel on the runway conditions or placing the landing beacons for the
On the early morning of the 25th, D-Day, another team from Seal 6 was tasked with
securing the Radio Free Grenada transmitting station. The Seal Team was to capture and
hold the radio station for use by an Army Psychological Operations unit. The Seals
inserted at dawn via Blackhawk helicopter. The team seized the station without sizable
resistance, but the opposition forces soon counter-attacked with BTR armored cars. The
Seals were forced to destroy the transmitter and escape to the ocean. The mission was
considered a success by destroying the enemy's ability to use the transmitter. However,
the mission should not have been tasked to Seal Team 6. The Seals are not designed to
seize and hold a position. They are structured to seek a target, destroy it decisively, and
then disappear into the ocean. They are not equipped to fight a long term battle,
especially in daylight hours. In our opinion, this mission should have been given to U.S.
Army Special Forces or Rangers instead of the Seals.
The third Seal mission involved Lt. Mike Walsh's Seal Team 4 performing a beach
reconnaissance. This was an example of a perfectly designed Seal mission with perfect
execution. Seal 4 was to recon a beach near Pearls Airport for a potential marine
amphibious invasion. Seals are specifically trained to measure water depths, analyze the
beach for use by tracked vehicles, and estimate enemy defenses. Seal 4 launched in the
middle of the night on the 24th. They moved in F470 Zodiac boats over sea to the
objective. The weather was stormy with heavy rain and swells in the sea. The Seals
avoided detection of multiple enemy patrol boats and reached the beach. Two scout
swimmers were sent to check on enemy defenses before deploying the team. The scouts
reported that the enemy forces had just left the beach due to the heavy rains and no one
remained. The Seals landed on the beach and conducted a "by-the-book" recon. They
determined the beach would not support an amphibious landing by the marines and sent
back the codes "Walking Track Shoes" to notify the marines that an AIR insertion would
be required. The Seals stayed in place on the beach until daylight and were relieved by
the marines after they had secured the Pearls Airport.
The final Seal mission was the rescue of Governor general Sir Paul Scoon, (Grenada is
under the protection of Great Britain, at least in name) and his wife. This was a fitting
Seal mission called a "Snatch and Grab". The plan called for the Seals to insert near the
mansion by hovering helicopter fast rope, secure Governor General Scoon and his wife,
and evacuate them and the team by helicopter to safety. Unfortunately, the mission
unfolded badly. The insertion by the Seals went as planned and the Seals seized the
mansion with no opposition. But, while the Seals were identifying Mr. Scoon, an enemy
counter-attack was organized using BTR-60 armored cars and the Seals were pinned
down inside the building. A firefight started as enemy Soldiers tried to rush the mansion.
A Seal sniper engaged the troops from the mansion roof and killed 21 enemy Soldiers
and drove them back. The Seals were trapped in the mansion for nearly 24 hours until
they were relieved by a small marine company-sized unit the following day. In the
attempts to rescue the pinned down Seals, two marine AH-1T Cobra helicopters were
shot down, killing 3 marines, and reportedly a UH-60 Blackhawk was also downed
killing one Seal and one Army officer. General Scoon, his wife, and nine aides were all
safely evacuated without injury. Although the Seals were not equipped to fight a
sustained battle (no M72 LAW rockets to counter enemy armored vehicles), they relied
on their training and tactical positioning to successfully complete the mission.
U.S. Army Rangers were the key to the overall success of the Grenada invasion. The
Rangers were tasked with securing the Salines Airport and the True Blue Campus of the
Grand Anse Medical School. The Rangers initial plan was to airland three C-130
Hercules aircraft directly on the runway, disembark, and commence direct action contact
with opposition forces to secure the airfield. Upon securing the airstrip, the 82nd
Airborne Infantry would airland and relieve them, moving out to control the southern part
of the island. The Rangers would then send a company to the True Blue Campus to
secure the safety of the American students housed there.
The Rangers had little time to prepare for their role in Urgent Fury, the invasion of
Grenada. Within hours of receiving orders to move, Ranger units were marshaling at
Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, prepared to board C-130s and MC-130s for the ride to
Grenada. Their first objective was Point Salines airfield, located on the island's most
southwestern point. While securing the airfield, Rangers were to secure the True Blue
Campus at Salines, where American medical students were in residence. As quickly as
possible, Ranger units were then to take the Army camp at Calivigny.
Since the Navy SEAL team was unable to get ashore; they were to have provided
intelligence on the airfield at Salines. H-hour, originally scheduled during darkness, was
moved several times until morning twilight. In the lead MC-130s there were problems
with the inertial navigation equipment. Since there were no hatch mount antennas on the
cargo doors of the aircraft, communications to Ranger units were delayed while passing
through Air Force communications.
While in the air, the Rangers were notified of photographic intelligence indicating
obstructions on the field. Instead of landing, the majority of transport would have to drop
all the Rangers at Salines so the runway could be cleared. Due to the Seals not placing the
beacons or getting any intelligence on the runway condition, and MC-130 Combat Talon
sensors indicating the runway was blocked, the Rangers decided to parachute directly
onto the airstrip. The Rangers performed a tricky in-flight Parachute Rigging in
preparation of the jump. The Rangers would be jumping without reserve parachutes from
an altitude of below 500 ft. A mix-up occurred in the air when the lead plane's navigation
instruments failed. The aircraft slowed it's approach allowing the other aircraft to pass it
by. At dawn, the first Rangers jumped in a mass tactical formation and landed on the
runway. Unfortunately, the first group of jumpers on the drop zone (DZ) was the
command and staff elements. The assault force was a half hour late arriving at the DZ.
The staff element came under immediate fire from a small force of Cuban engineering
In some aircraft the men were told to remove their harness, rucksack, and main and
reserve parachutes. These items were placed in kit bags and moved forward to facilitate
off-loading troops and cargo. But before long, the USAF Loadmasters were yelling,
"Only thirty minutes fuel left. Rangers are fighting. Jump in Twenty minutes."
These Rangers now had to re-rig for the drop, unpacking non-essential equipment and
pulling on parachutes. Rucksacks had to be hooked under the reserve pack and weapons
strapped to the left side. Under these conditions it was not possible for the jumpmaster to
check each man, so buddy rigging was employed.
Aboard the lead MC-130, navigation equipment failed and the pilot reported he could not
guarantee finding the landing zone. Rain squalls made it impossible to employ a lead
change, so both lead aircraft pulled away to the south. As the Rangers approached the
target, the aircraft were out of assigned order and the planned order of arrival was no
longer possible. This meant that the attached 82nd Airborne Division Combat Engineer
runway clearing team would not be the first on the field. The Rangers then requested a
mass parachute assault, a contingency previously planned, so that only the order of exit
from the aircraft would be affected, but the Air Force would not conduct a mass drop.
Despite all these difficulties, the Rangers drove on and at 0534 the first Rangers began
dropping at Salines: a platoon of "B" 1/75 and the Battalion Tactical Operations Center
(TOC), followed almost 25 minutes later by part of "A" 1/75. Over a half hour later the
rest of "A" 1/75, minus seven men were over Salines. It was now 0634, but the remaining
men of 1/75 would not be on the ground until 07:05.
Men of 1/75 assembled on the east end of the runway. They were short "C" 1/75, which
had been sent with sixty Special Operations Detachment Delta (Delta Force) troops to
take the Richmond Hill prison and after that mission was aborted due to no one to rescue,
so Delta operators scoured the surrounding hills to help secure them for the drop. The
Ranger battalions were already operating below strength. One reason for this seems to
have been the fact that a limited number of aircraft and aircrews were trained for night
Over one and a half hours elapsed from the first drop of 1/75 until the last unit was on the
ground shortly after seven in the morning. These men jumped from 500 feet so they
would be in the air between 12 and 15 seconds and under the line of sight of Cuban anti-
aircraft guns. Their drop zone was very narrow because there was water on the north and
south sides only a few meters from the runway.
At 07:07 the 2nd Battalion began to drop. For several hours their aircraft had orbited,
waiting to unload and refuel. They dropped in a much shorter period, and all but one man
was safely on the ground. One Ranger broke his leg, and one Ranger's static line became
tangled as he exited the aircraft, dragging him against the tail of the plane before he was
hauled back aboard. 2/75 assembled on the western end of the runway.
Command Sergeant Major Eric Haney and Delta Operator who fought on Grenada writes
about the 1983 invasion of Grenada in his superb book, "Inside Delta Force" on pages
302 and 303:
"We had just gotten to the top when someone shouted, 'There are the planes!'
I turned around in time to see a line of C-130s coming in low from the east. But as they
approached the leading edge of the airfield, the first two planes were plastered with
automatic cannon fire. The lead plane broke away, but the others kept coming, and then
you 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. Goddam, what a stirring sight!
We quickly got out some air-ground signal panels to let them know we were friendly and
fired over the next ridge toward those 23-millimeters to give the gunners a little
something to worry about. The first pass of planes had dumped about a company of
Rangers and now the planes were circling and heading back for the second drop. Rangers
were scattered down the length of the ten-thousand oot runway, just getting out of their
parachutes, when two armored vehicles rolled out onto the airfield and started firing their
machine guns and heavy cannon.
"Oh hell! Not that!" I yelled in frustration. "The sons of bitches will cut our men to
pieces". But almost as soon as the vehicles gained the center of the runway, the Rangers
opened fire on them with two 90-millimeter recoilless rifles-abruptly ending the armor
threat on Point Salines. Now the second pass was overhead, and the air was full of green
parachutes dangling brave men.
So the automatic weapons fire shifted their focus from the airplanes to the men on the
This is bad, this is bad, I thought, watching the fire rip across the far end of the runway.
This is when a unit is the most vulnerable. Just as they land and their leaders are scattered
and they haven't had the time to reorganize.
But then I saw an amazing sight. The Rangers rose from the ground as one organism,
screaming their war cries, and assaulted straight across the runway toward the enemy
guns. Within ten minutes, the guns fell silent. The third and last pass of Rangers jumped
Later that day I learned that a corporal had led the spontaneous assault across the airfield.
Somebody said the guy jumped up from the ground and shouted, "I've had enough of this
shit!" and took off across the airfield toward the enemy positions. Every man near him
jumped up to follow, and the attack spread like wildfire up and down the length of the
airfield. Goddamn! What Soldiers!"
Once on the ground, 1/75 was no longer under effective fire, and thus could begin to clear
the runway of blocking trucks and bulldozers. Some of the vehicles had keys in them;
others were hot-wired and removed. A Cuban bulldozer was used to flatten the stakes that
had been driven into the ground with wires between them, and to push aside the drums
placed on the runway. For fifteen minutes there was no enemy fire, and the Rangers
worked without interruption.
By 10:00, 1/75 had its second platoon at the True Blue Campus and its first and third
platoons had moved north of the runway. In the center, "B" 1/75, had moved north and
was holding the high ground not far from the Cuban headquarters. Units of 2/75 had
cleared the area west of the airfield as well as the area north of their drop zone to Canoe
Bay. The airfield was secure, and the C-130s, which had gone to Barbados to refuel,
returned to unload equipment not dropped - which included M151 gun jeeps,
motorcycles, and Hughes A/MH-6 "Little Birds" otherwise known as MD500 Defender
Eight hours after landing, the commander of "B" 2/75, was notified that two Rangers
were missing near their positions. The company commander decided the missing men
must be near a building which lay between "B" Company and the Cuban positions. A
Cuban construction worker was sent forward with an eleven-man Ranger squad under a
flag of truce. While the Rangers remained outside, the Cuban entered and spoke with
those inside, who agreed to a truce if the Rangers would treat the Cuban wounded. Two
Rangers and seventeen wounded Cubans were evacuated. Afterward, the Ranger
commander called for the Cubans to surrender, and 80 to 100 did so. The remainder
surrendered later, after a brief fight, to the 82nd Airborne.
At 15:30 that afternoon, a counterattack was launched toward "A" 1/75, consisting of
three BTR-60s, which moved through 2nd platoons firing positions, firing toward the
runway. The Rangers countered with rifles, M60 MMGs, LAWs, and a 90mm recoilless
rifle. Two of the BTRs hit each other when the first one halted. Both were disabled. The
third began a hasty retreat and was hit in the rear. It was finally destroyed by an AC-130
The last action of the first day took place east of True Blue Campus, where Rangers came
under fire from a house on top of a prominent hill, 1,000 meters east of the runway. No
Spectre gunship was available, so an A-7 attack plane finally destroyed the house, but
only after several duds landed alarmingly near the Rangers.
At the end of the first day in Grenada, the Rangers had secured the airfield and True Blue
Campus at a cost of five dead and six wounded. Unfortunately, "C" 1/75, assigned to
Delta Force had earlier run into a more difficult situation.
In contrast to the missions completed by the Army Ranger battalions, was the more
difficult assignments of SFOD-D, "Delta Force" or "commandos" accompanied by
Rangers, flown by TaskForce 160 (now called 160th SOAR) the "Night Stalkers". The
two primary objectives were Fort Rupert and Richmond Hill prison. Fort Rupert, which
intelligence reported was housing the core of senior advisors to General Austin, was
collectively known as the Revolutionary Council. Richmond Hill prison which held
scores of illegally imprisoned civil servants and other citizens arrested by the oppressive
RMC regime. Ideally, of course, the commandos would have preferred to conduct these
operations at night, under cover of darkness. These conditions, too, were favored by the
pilots and crew from the Army's elite, and also newly formed, 160th Special Operations
Group, known also as Task Force 160, but better known as the "Night Stalkers". Flying
MH-60 Blackhawks and AH/MH-6 "Little Birds", the 160th had been raised to provide
the U.S. SOF community with an all-weather, day/night helicopter capability in response
to the failure of the marine pilots at Desert One in 1980. One primary 160th mission was
the covert infiltration and exfiltration of SOF personnel into hostile locations. Such
would be their tasking in Grenada. Upon receiving word of the pending actions in
Grenada, the 160th dispatched a number of Blackhawks from Fort Campbell, Kentucky
to a nearby island staging area on Barbados. The "Little Birds" were simultaneously
transported by Air Force C-130 and C-5 cargo planes to the same secret location. It was
here that they met up with the Commando troopers recently arrived from Fort Bragg.
Richmond Hill prison is located at the bottom of a valley overlooked by a nearby enemy
held fort. The Delta team had no accurate maps of the prison and they had no idea of the
prison's defenses. The mission was originally tasked to Seal Team 6 operators but was
changed to Delta at the last minute. Delta's team had no time to plan an effective
campaign and were going in blind without hard intel as well. Due to delays delivering
their MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from Barbados, the Rescue force would have to go in
broad daylight instead of under the cover of darkness as planned.
Delta planned on assaulting the prison compound by landing Blackhawk helicopters
outside the perimeter. They would then mount an intense frontal attack and overwhelm
the defenders. Unfortunately, the prison was built on a hill with steep cliffs on three sides
and had no adequate LZ to unload the troopers. When Delta's men discovered the terrain
problem, they decided they would hover the aircraft over the prison and fast rope into the
compound, surprise the defenders and overwhelm them. As the Delta team flew toward
the prison they discovered that the hill was defended by anti-aircraft batteries and also
heavily defended from within. Perched on a high ridge whose sides were almost vertical
and covered by dense foliage, the prison was surrounded by walls twenty feet high and
topped with barbed wire and watchtowers covering the area. Intelligence had failed to
report the presence of two antiaircraft guns on a ridge some 150 feet higher then the
prison, which brought the Blackhawks under fire. It was impossible to use ropes to lower
the Rangers. The helicopters had to remain steady during this operation, making the
Rangers and crews easy targets. No air support was possible at this time, since all small
aircraft were engaged at Salines. One helicopter was shot up and forced to crash land
down hill from the prison but still within range of the defenders. The other choppers
landed next to the downed bird and unloaded their payload of troops. The Delta/Ranger
team was almost instantly pinned down by enemy fire and eventually had to be rescued
by other Rangers from Salines Airport.
At least two attempts were made to bring the Blackhawks in to unload troops, but anti-
aircraft fire hit pilots, crew, and the attacking troops. Suppressive fire from the
Blackhawks was ineffective because of their violent maneuvers, although some Rangers
walked away from the crashed Blackhawks, others were badly hurt and were not
immediately evacuated. Part of the evacuation problem seems to have been that Army
pilots could not land aboard Navy ships because they were snobbily considered "not
qualified" to do so, although this was eventually waived, and they landed without any
problems. The Delta operators that were able bodied to fight procedded to the hills
surrounding Port Salines airfield to help secure them for the incoming Ranger parachute
At Fort Rupert, however, the situation was much different. Arriving by helicopter,
troopers assaulted the complex and rounded up their quarry quickly, without sustaining
casualties. Their mission completed, the team called for extraction from the 160th who
arrived and transported both the commandos and the detainees to the USS Guam offshore
for questioning and formal processing by officials.
Intelligence failed at the prison and also when the Rangers were not informed until 1030
on the morning of the 25 October that there were still students at the second campus at
A Ranger platoon moved to the True Blue Campus with only light opposition and
commenced evacuating students via helicopter. During the evacuations, the Rangers
learned that there were many more American students at the main Grand Anse campus.
With the help of a student ,who was an amateur HAM radio operator living at the other
campus and other students, they learned of enemy guards in the area, but the Rangers
thought that they could bring the students out. A heliborne operation with marine airlift
from the USS Guam was planned. Using marine helicopter squadron 261 CH-46s, with
supporting fire from USAF AC-130 gunships, ships off the coast, and the marines' last
two surviving AH-1T Cobra attack helicopters. American suppressive fire would
continue until 20 seconds before the Rangers were committed.
The Rangers would fly to the objective in three waves, each composed of three CH-46s.
Each wave of three would carry a company of Rangers, about 50 men. "A" 1/75 would go
in first, followed by "B" 1/75, which was to cordon off the campus to prevent outside
intervention. "C" 1/75 (-) would then arrive, its mission to locate the students and pack
them into four CH-53Ds waiting offshore.
During lift-off the order of aircraft somehow became confused. Instead of the lead flight
having 3 x CH-46s carrying "A" 1/75, the first load had one from "A" co. and two from
"B" co. Consequently, the second wave had two from "A" co. and one from "B" co. The
first three aircraft missed the designated beach in front of the campus. There was sporadic
small arms fire, but the only serious damage came from overhanging trees. One
helicopter shut down and was abandoned in the surf, but the Rangers scrambled out as
water poured in. Later a second marine machine was damaged by a tree.
The orbiting larger CH-53D Sea Stallions were now brought in to remove the students.
The CH-46s returned and extracted the Rangers, completing the entire operation in 26
minutes. After leaving the beach, they realized that eleven men sent up as a flank guard
had not returned. By radio these men were told to move toward positions held by the
82nd Airborne. The Rangers were not sure they could safely enter those lines, so they
decided to use one of the inflatable boats from the disabled helicopter. However, the rafts
had been damaged during the air assault. The Rangers soon had to swim alongside their
damaged boat. Having battled surf and tides for some time, they were spotted, picked up
at 2300, and brought to the USS Caron lying off the coast.
One of the Rangers' initial D-day objectives, Calivigny barracks, had not been secured.
Lying about 5 kilometers from the airfield, the barracks reportedly housed and trained
troops. On 27 October, under the command of a Brigade Headquarters from the 82nd
Airborne Division, a full scale attack was carried out by 2/75 and reinforced by "C" (-)
Four waves of four UH-60 Blackhawks, each carrying a company to assault the camp,
were to fly out to sea before heading to the beach, flying low over the water at about 100
knots. Support was furnished by USAF AC-130 Spectre gunships and Navy A-7Es. At
Salines the Army Airborne Field artillery had seventeen 105mm howitzers, and at sea,
the USS Caron would supply naval gunfire support. "A" 2/75 was to land at the southern
end of the compound, on the left and right "C" 2/75 was to set down. "B" 2/75 was to
land in the southeast, assault suspected anti-aircraft guns, and rejoin the other companies
in the north. In reserve was "C" 1/75, which would also hold the southern end of the
The Blackhawks came in over the waves, climbing sharply to the top of the cliffs.
Quickly the pilots slowed down in order to find the exact landing zone inside the
perimeter. Each Blackhawk came in rapidly, one behind the other. The first helicopter put
down safely, near the southern boundary of the camp, and was followed by the second.
The third Blackhawk suffered some damage, and spun forward, smashing into the second
machine. In the fourth Blackhawk, the crew saw what was happening and veered hard
right; the aircraft landed in a ditch, damaging its tail rotor. Apparently not realizing that
the helicopters rotor was damaged, the pilot attempted to move the Blackhawk, which
rose sharply, seemed to spin forward, and crashed. In twenty seconds three machines
were down. Debris and rotor blades flew through the air, badly wounding four Rangers
and killing three who, sadly, were the only deaths in 2/75.
"A" 2/75 regrouped as "C" 2/75 landed on large concrete pads on the edge of the
compound. "B" 2/75 also landed safely, and moved on its objective. "C"(-) 1/75 also
landed without incident. Contrary to expectations, the barracks were deserted. The
Rangers found nothing. That night they slept in the rubble caused by the intense
bombardment. this was their last action before returning to the United States.
The Ranger mission was a perfectly designed and executed mission in accordance with
Ranger standard operating procedures. The Rangers jumped into an airstrip, secured it,
and then were relieved by Airborne infantry who pushed outward in all directions to
maintain contact with the enemy and defeat him. It was a textbook Ranger mission. The
major negatives of the Ranger missions were poor intelligence of the target areas, poor
maps and unarmored rubber-tired jeeps for blocking positions when light tracked
armored vehicles would have been better. M113 Gavin-type light tracked AFVs could be
airdropped or airlanded to accompany Ranger assaults and the lack of organic tracked
AFVs would condemn future operations like the October 3, 1993 mission to capture
Somali warlords popularly depicted in the book and film, "Blackhawk Down!". The lack
of adequate maps and terrain information not only plagued the Ranger battalions but all
forces involved in the conflict. Many commanders only had local tourist travel maps.
The 82nd Airborne Division and the 22 marine amphibious unit both had very successful
missions. Both units acted as conventional infantry units after insertion onto the island.
Each unit was originally tasked to secure larger areas than the Ranger units. The 82nd
Airborne Division was responsible for the southern half of the island while the marines
had the northern half. As the battles for the island unfolded, both units were called upon
to react quickly and decisively to multiple unforeseen missions. Both the 82nd Airborne
and the 22 MAU had to bail out one of the Spec Ops teams at one point. Their flexibility
and unified command structures were the key to their success.
The Spec Ops units may have had missions that ended in failure or marginal success, but
the end result was a decisive victory. The American students were evacuated and any
remaining Americans were secure and safe. The lessons learned by the Spec Ops warriors
resulted in new operating procedures and eventually a new command being established.
The Special Operations forces were reorganized under the U.S. Army 1st Special
Operations Command (SOCOM). All U.S. Army Spec Ops units were placed under one
command. This reduced the breakdowns in communication, planning, and competition
among the groups. The units were organized under a common mission charter and each
unit would be tasked only with missions for which they were specialists.
Sweeping changes in policy occurred after the Grenada mission. The doctrine of the
Special Operations groups for Low Intensity conflict was written to deal with military
incursions such as Grenada and Panama. The invasion of Grenada was necessary to gain
the current level of readiness in the Spec Ops commands. It was also successful in
stopping the spread of Cuban military readiness in the Gulf region and the restoration of a
democratic government in Grenada.
The epic battle for Grenada was the first inter-service combat for the U.S. military in
years, done with no notice. In the years to follow, such operations would be practiced
constantly resulting in the near flawless invasion, takedown of Panama in 1989 resulting
in the capture of dictator Manuel Noriega. This Cold War victory showed that the U.S.
was willing to fight for freedom on the ground and prevail.