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Gyrate
11-20-2000, 10:35 AM
Here's a question that has been bugging me recently for no particular reason: Why did the US invade the small and relatively insignificant island of Grenada way back in nineteen-eighty-whatever-it-was?

I remember when it happened not really understanding the given reason for the military landing there (the "real" reason being the Reagan wanted an excuse to say "look -- the US still kicks butt!"). And, years later, I still don't know what the reason was. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

jr8 :confused:

Dinsdale
11-20-2000, 10:38 AM
We had to save those poor med students!

Also, Clint Eastwood needed fodder for his next military pic.

puddleglum
11-20-2000, 10:46 AM
The US invaded Grenada for two reasons. One was to safeguard US citizens who were living there as med students. The other was because communists had just seized the government and there was a long standing foreign policy going back to Truman about the containment of communism.

London_Calling
11-20-2000, 11:01 AM
Well, IMHO, the invasion might have happened, it might not probably Reagan and his advisors were still assessing the new regime. However, the fact that the invasion took place about 36 hours after 241 US Marines died in a Beirut barracks might not have been entirely coincidental.

SuaSponte
11-20-2000, 11:04 AM
It was there.

Officially, here's the reasons:
1. Grenada was governed by an (elected, at least originally) Marxist party. A split developed between authoritarian and democratic Marxists in the party, and a coup occurred, with the hardliners taking charge. The organization of eastern Carribean States (don't remember exact name) considered this to be a dangerous precedent in their corner of the globe, and asked the U.S. to intervene;
2. What made it an issue of national security for the U.S. was that Grenada, with funding and workers from Cuba, was building a runway that was long enough to handle strategic bombers. The runway, when completed, would allow Soviet strategic bombers to land there, refuel, and go on to Cuba. Without the runway, the Sov bombers couldn't make it to Cuba without mid-air refueling. It was considered a dangerous thing to allow the Sovs to quickly build up a strategic bomber force in Cuba in the event of a crisis. The Grenadine government asserted that they were building the runway simply to allow jumbo jets to land on their island, and therefore jump start their tourism industry (Grenada is at the very bottom of the West Indies, and is pretty hard to get to from North American or Europe without direct flights on jumbos).

the unofficial reasons put forth by some:
1. Things were going very badly in our intervention in Lebanon at the same time. Just days before the Grenada invasion (but, to be fair, likely after the planning for the invasion started), the Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed, killing 241 Marines. Grenada was invaded because Reagan needed a quick and easy military victory;

2. Reagan hated commies, and he really hated them in our back yard. Related to this was that Reagan was a true believer in the (now discredited) "domino theory" - once one country goes commie, neighbors will quickly succumb. So, to show them damn commies they weren't welcome in our swimming pool, and to prevent the whole Caribbean Basin from going Red, he decided to make an example of l'il ole Grenada.

Which version is right I do not know. I do know the place is beautiful (went down there about 6 years ago). The other thing I know is that I landed in a jumbo jet on that damn runway. After the U.S. invaded to stop completion of the runway, we paid for its completion. ;)
Sua

ElvisL1ves
11-20-2000, 11:07 AM
[IMHO] It was "wagging the dog" - a US Marine detachment that Reagan had sent to Lebanon for no clear reason had recently been blown up in their beds by a truck bomb. He (or whoever was running the White House by that time) needed a US military success of some kind to deflect public and Congressional attention, and keep embarrassing questions from being asked about foreign and military policy.

That said, the "invasion" was pretty embarrassing in itself. Taking over one of the most pitiful little islands you could ever think of took over a week, IIRC, with US Marine units being pinned down by Cuban engineers with rifles, of all things. Other US units "liberated" a mental hospital and a prison, thinking they were full of US hostages. When they finally did get to the medical students who had been used as the pretext, the students assured them they didn't need liberating.

After it was all over, the Pentagon handed out combat medals to more servicemen than had actually been there. Just like the Special Olympics, where everybody gets a medal.

But at least the US was "riding tall in the saddle", as Ronnie liked to say.

Gyrate
11-20-2000, 11:09 AM
SO what did we do once we got there (apart from stop them building the runway and film "Heartbreak Ridge")?

jr8

SuaSponte
11-20-2000, 11:11 AM
I didn't mention the med students, but I think that "saving" them was public relations fodder that no one expected to be taken seriously. It's a standard rationale the U.S. (and other countries) use whenever they intervene anywhere.

I did a quick search, and couldn't find it, but if your searching skills are better than mine, I strongly recommend you try to find an Art Buchwald humor column from 1965, the year we intervened in the Dominican Republic. The gist of the piece is a conversation between a CIA agent and an American tourist in Dominica. The tourist is the last American in the Republic, but is about to leave the country. The CIA agent is desperately trying to convince him to stay, so that there will be an American for the invading Marines to protect. I might be biased, as this was right up my course of study in college, but I found the column priceless.

Sua

Johanna
11-20-2000, 11:14 AM
I remember well the day that happened. I went to work and the conservative Christian Republican guy I worked with was making a disgusted face and saying how that deplorable incident shook his faith in conservative Republicanism. I don't think Ray-Gun succeeded in fooling anyone but himself (and those who wanted to be fooled).

Dinsdale
11-20-2000, 11:14 AM
Anyone remember the name of the "operation"?

They used to come up with some pretty fun ones.

My favorite was the Noriega venture, called "Operation Just Cause." Yeah, just 'cause we can!"

RickJay
11-20-2000, 11:27 AM
Originally posted by ElvisL1ves
[IMHO] It was "wagging the dog" - a US Marine detachment that Reagan had sent to Lebanon for no clear reason had recently been blown up in their beds by a truck bomb.

As a former (Canadian) soldier I admit I am somewhat skeptical of this claim. To plan and mount an operation that large in 36 hours, moving supported troops in an amphibious invasion against some armed resistance... well, in my experience it usually took 48 hours to plan a barbeque.

I do not believe that the U.S. could, in thirty-six hours, decide to act on Grenada in response to the Beirut bombing. It's possible that they decided to prematurely invade if they were already planning on it, of course, which might explain the screw-ups that followed, as opposed to the relatively smooth, by-the-numbers efficiency of the Panama invasion.

That said, the "invasion" was pretty embarrassing in itself. Taking over one of the most pitiful little islands you could ever think of took over a week, IIRC, with US Marine units being pinned down by Cuban engineers with rifles, of all things.

IIRC, the Grenada invasion was mounted by the Army, not the Marines, despite "Heartbreak Ridge" being about a bunch of Marines. In fact, the Army complained about that movie for that very reason.

Lemur866
11-20-2000, 11:55 AM
Grenada was the very first communist country that became non-communist. Up until then, the Soviets had managed to hold every country they had occupied. Grenada was important because it was a turning point.

Johanna
11-20-2000, 12:00 PM
RickJay -- If you recall, at the time the Grenada coup happened, there was a troop ship that had just set out for the Middle East. It was abruptly diverted in mid-Atlantic to head for Grenada. It actually was a spur-of-the-moment acting on impulse.

ZenBeam
11-20-2000, 12:11 PM
The runway, when completed, would allow Soviet strategic bombers to land there, refuel, and go on to Cuba. Without the runway, the Sov bombers couldn't make it to Cuba without mid-air refueling.

Grenada is SouthEast of Cuba. Where are the Soviet bombers coming from that Grenada is on the way to Cuba?

ElvisL1ves
11-20-2000, 01:30 PM
Originally posted by RickJay It's possible that they decided to prematurely invade if they were already planning on it, of course, which might explain the screw-ups that followed, as opposed to the relatively smooth, by-the-numbers efficiency of the Panama invasion.

IIRC, the Grenada invasion was mounted by the Army, not the Marines, despite "Heartbreak Ridge" being about a bunch of Marines. In fact, the Army complained about that movie for that very reason.[/B]

I'm pretty sure there were plans already in place. The Pentagon has plans on file for just about any military situation one could imagine. They're continually being reviewed and updated as part of training exercises, and more-detailed war games. Hell, they probably have the plans to invade Canada and put down a Quebec civil war. I'm sure you're right about the hasty implementation, though.

IIRC, part of the reason for the disorganization was the need to get every branch of the military involved somehow, so they'd all have their shot at fame, honor, glory, and career advancement. I recall Army, Marine, Navy, and Air Force units all being involved in everything that happened.

WillGolfForFood
11-20-2000, 02:05 PM
SO what did we do once we got there (apart from stop them building the runway...

60 Minutes had a piece on this a few years ago. According to them, the first thing that we did after "liberating" Grenada was to bring in a crew of engineers and build the very same runway that we'd invaded the country to prevent the Russians from building. Apparently a Democratically-built runway can't be used to invade the US the same way a Communistically-built one can. <g>

Actually, IIRC, it was an extension to an existing airport runway that the Russians were going to build (and we ended up building). The stated reason for the extension - on both sides - was that it was needed for larger commercial aircraft. When the Russians were going to build it, though, we spotted other nefarious uses for it.

SuaSponte
11-20-2000, 02:55 PM
Originally posted by ZenBeam
The runway, when completed, would allow Soviet strategic bombers to land there, refuel, and go on to Cuba. Without the runway, the Sov bombers couldn't make it to Cuba without mid-air refueling.

Grenada is SouthEast of Cuba. Where are the Soviet bombers coming from that Grenada is on the way to Cuba?

The correct response is "Don't ask me, I'm just reporting what I recall." However, that ain't good enough, so I just looked at the CaribSat map on Weather.com. To me, it looks like Grenada is ESE of Cuba. Perhaps it is just far east enough to allow Sov bombers to make it there.

Sua

AWB
11-20-2000, 03:42 PM
We ran out of little tiki-style umbrellas for our tropical drinks.

GKittridge
11-20-2000, 07:01 PM
One of the cable channels did a show on the Grenada invasion -- Discovery, History, TLC, I never can remember which. If you can find it, it's rather interesting, but really didn't answer a lot of questions about the need for our troops to go there. It talked to a few of the students, at least one of which said he didn't feel he was ever in danger. And it did end by saying that the people of Grenada still refer to that event as the Liberation of Grenada. All in all, I don't know anything more about it now than I did then. Hell, I still don't really know where it is.

But it was our first real military victory since WWII, depending on how you count Korea.

manhattan
11-20-2000, 07:11 PM
Originally posted by AWB
We ran out of little tiki-style umbrellas for our tropical drinks.

Naw, those were an American (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/001117.html) thing.

hapaXL
11-20-2000, 08:06 PM
IIRC, more American soldiers were killed in accidents and by friendly fire than by the 18 Cubans "defending" the island.

wasn't this also the case in the Gulf War?

I love America!

dtilque
11-20-2000, 08:35 PM
Originally posted by ElvisL1ves
IIRC, part of the reason for the disorganization was the need to get every branch of the military involved somehow, so they'd all have their shot at fame, honor, glory, and career advancement. I recall Army, Marine, Navy, and Air Force units all being involved in everything that happened.
I believe the Air Force's role was restricted to transport. They didn't get involved in flying close air support or other combat missions. Those were done by Navy and Marine pilots flying off the carrier.

As far as Soviet bombers needing it to fly to Cuba, it's possible that the runway would allow them to fly a route that's far away from US territory. A direct route to Cuba goes between the US mainland and Puerto Rico. Whether the Soviets actually planned for this is unknown, but it could have been in some Pentagon nightmares.

Punoqllads
11-20-2000, 08:44 PM
Originally posted by hapaXL
IIRC, more American soldiers were killed in accidents and by friendly fire than by the 18 Cubans "defending" the island.

wasn't this also the case in the Gulf War?


There were Cubans in Iraq? My God, no wonder we attacked!

Road Rash
11-20-2000, 11:31 PM
This is going against my opinion of staying out. But Grenada is in our sphere of influence, which is backed up by the Truman and Monroe doctrine. The Soviet Union was an outside-this-hemisphere force coming into our sphere of influence. Even if the Beriut incident had not happened, Grenada would have been attacked. Remember that the U.S. had plenty of defeats at that time. Vietnam and Iran were still recent.

Johnson did a similar thing in the 60's.

ticker
11-21-2000, 04:36 AM
Originally posted by ElvisL1ves
I'm pretty sure there were plans already in place. The Pentagon has plans on file for just about any military situation one could imagine.

I remember from a documentry series (in the UK) that the only maps available to the US forces were from an Esso station. If that's forward planning then I am getting a little nervous.

Gyrate
11-21-2000, 05:01 AM
Yes, but did we oust the government? Put the "democratic Marxists" back in charge? Install a US-friendly government?

Lord knows Reagan would have missed the irony of bypassing a democratically elected Marxist government in faor of an imposed capitalist one "in the name of democracy". (Actually, Reagan would have missed irony if it was painted red and bit him on the ass, but that's a different gripe).

jr8