“[Reagan] had scanned the papers, listened as Robert McFarlane, his national security adviser, briefed him on the latest information before picking up his pen. He signed with a single word: ‘Go.’”1 The 1980s, called the Autumn of Nations in reference to the annual falling of leaves, saw the collapse of many communist regimes across the globe. The US, which only intervened in one of these revolutions, was asked to intervene in the political turmoil of Grenada. Major Mark Adkin covers the joint invasion mission, Operation Urgent Fury, in his aptly named book Urgent Fury. In his account of the revolution, mission, and aftermath, Adkin
Grenada was originally a plantation sought by France and England. The two nations fought over the island for 150 years, and in the meantime, the plantation slaves fought for their freedom. Britain secured the island in 1803 and held it until Sir Eric Gairy claimed full independence for Grenada in 1974. Before this, Gairy served as chief minister, illegally squandering huge amounts of money for his residence. When Britain realized how much money he was spending, they suspended the constitution and threw Gairy out of office. Gairy would later use this situation to his advantage, making the people of Grenada believe that the white colonial government was “persecuting their black leader, not allowing them to live in the style that they themselves enjoyed.”2 Their support for him put him back in the position of chief minister in 1967, and this time, he was there to stay for a while. In the span of a few years, he began to consolidate his position as an autocratic ruler, bestowing upon himself around thirty honors, degrees, and titles. He implanted his henchmen and informers across all branches of government; nothing of significance could be said or done without him knowing. He took ownership of multiple properties and business interests, diverting a steady amount of money away from the government and into his own pocket. In 1976 he passed a law requiring Grenadian banks to give five percent of their deposits in the treasury. Two years later, this percentage was doubled to ten, and a bit later, this number was to increase to 20 percent. At this point, the people of Grenada had had enough. They realized that Gairy’s proclamations of loyalty to public interest and freedom were not supported by his action sin the slightest. A man named Maurice Bishop, who was a lawyer at the time, headed the start of a political opposition. They started the New Jewel Movement, trying to force Gairy out of office. Gairy, reacting rather predictably, responded with brute force and let loose the police and his own personal force called the Mongoose Gang, breaking up protests with mass beatings, and in some cases, killings. One day, when Maurice left the island, the leaders of the New Jewel Movement snuck into a Mongoose Gang barracks. They set fire to the buildings, initiating the beginning of another coup; this one was welcomed by the majority of Grenadians, because they believed they were entering an era free of corruption and brutality. What they didn’t know was that while they may have “escaped from the frying pan, they have just jumped into the fire.” 3
Bishop’s path to power was not a bloodless one. He installed a policy of “heavy manners,” a term used to describe what was essentially merciless torture of suspected opposition. One case in which heavy manners were used is that of Winston Simon, a Grenadian farmer and fisherman, who lived in an area that was known to house “counterrevolutionary activity.” He was put through unspeakable torture despite the fact that he had not committed or known anything about counterrevolutionary activity. The perpetrators were forced to publicly apologize, but were soon reinstated in the party with even higher ranks. Bishop made it clear that loyalty to him and his party was essentially a pass to any crime. Although the Bishop party committed a multitude of vicious crimes against the people, it was still supported by the vast majority because all of his actions were said to be “necessary” for the revolution. The Grenadians weren’t even aware that Bishop had already begun to install Marxist policies into the government. The Grenadian system revolved around controlling the masses. It was “an elitist system whereby real power was held by a few full party members.”4 A strict method of selection was established to ensure that party members were fully committed and dedicated, but most importantly, willing to do anything for Bishop. A comprehensive nationwide organization was established to instill Marxism-Leninism into the minds of the people saying it was “freedom in the making.”5 Huge quantities of weaponry were imported into Grenada from Cuba to supply the military. These trends continued until a man named Bernard Coard made his first move to rise in political power. He resigned from board, causing a chain reaction of criticism on the inefficiency of the Central Committee. This criticism ultimately became focused on Bishop, degrading his image and putting the spotlight on Coard. Coard would ride this momentum out into yet another revolution.
Although they shared an identical aim for Grenada, Coard and Bishop were essentially characteristic polar opposites. Bishop was a tall and charismatic man, while Coard was short and flabby. Although he lacked Bishop’s charm, Coard was renowned for his capacity for hard work. When Bishop began to lose face, Coard was seen as someone that was strong and dependable. Eventually, a joint leadership between the two was proposed. The idea didn’t last long, because Coard was intent on exposing Bishop as a counterrevolutionary and taking total control. Coard amassed an army, garnering support across the party. On the day known as Bloody Wednesday, Coard and his supporters put Bishop and his party under house arrest. A mass of Grenadians began to protest that their leader was being taken away from them. Crowding in through the gates of the community, they began pressuring Coard. Tension eventually burst, and Coard’s army began mercilessly firing into the crowd, “killing many and forcing others to jump off a nearby cliff in desperation”6. Afterwards, Bishop and his party were rounded up and executed by Coard’s own firing squad. The leader of a bloodless coup was slaughtered in the rise of a violent revolution. The instability and violence in Grenada led to many cries for help. Though many of these cries fell on deaf ears, the United States took the initiative to intervene.
Operation Urgent Fury was the first major military conflict since the Vietnam War. It required the assembly of the Maries, Rangers, and Airborne Division. The primary objectives for the initial launch of the mission was to capture the Point Salines International Airport, and then secure the American students that were studying in St. George’s University. These students played a vital part to convincing the public and Congress to committing to intervention, since they were posed as being at great risk of being taken hostage, especially during the volatile reign of Coard. The missions were not as simple as they expected, however. Many Cuban civilians were also soldiers, meaning that American forces could not tell who or where exactly their enemy was. In addition, reconnaissance missions carried out by the Marines were met by stormy weather, leading to the death of four. The Rangers initially intended on landing in the Point Salines Airport, but couldn’t when they realized the landing space was occupied. The Rangers were airdropped, “and they plummeted into the ground. That made six accidental parachute deaths before the operation had properly started.”7 They were able to secure the airport, and later, the St. George’s students, but at the cost of 5 additional troops. Later contact showed that there were more American students at another location in Anse. This was saved for the second day of the invasion, when American forces faced the blunt of Cuban forces. After using airstrikes and artillery, the US forces were able to force the surrender of their opponents at the cost of six wounded and two killed. Later that day, helicopters flew in Rangers to rescue more students at another part of the city, Anse. They faced light resistance, but suffered no casualties. Upon rescuing the students, they were again informed that more students were at another campus, this time at Prickly Bay. On the third day, the Rangers secured the last of the students, while the Marines continued to advance and capture more ground; by that point, there was barely any resistance.
Adkin depicts both the international disapproval of Urgent Fury and the numerous blunders and mistakes in the execution of the mission. Despite what many American newspapers may have described it as, the mission was a highly controversial issue that was criticized by the United Kingdom, Canada, and the majority of the United Nations General Alliance. The United Nations passed “the final resolution that ‘deeply deplores the military intervention, and calls for an immediate end to armed intervention and the withdrawal of foreign troops’”8 with 108 in favor and 9 against. Despite all this, the resolution had no effect on the situation at all. Past the mission’s unpopularity, Operation Urgent Fury was not at all an efficient or well-executed procedure. Adkin reveals the prevalent confusion that arose from the implementation of a wide variety of forces and groups.
Major Mark Adkin originally served in the British army. After his time of service, he started to publish a variety of books on international military history. His experience with warfare and his understanding of strategy lends his literature a more analyzed and concise description of what is going on.
Adkin published Urgent Fury in 1989, a monumental year in which multiple communist regimes across the globe saw their demise. The majority of these revolutions were caused by an “overwhelming suppression of expression”9, which erupted in anger and violence. This popular sentiment in Europe influenced Adkin to explicitly describe each stage and development on the road to the Grenadian revolution.
Wood, in his review of Adkin’s book, wrote that while he agreed with many of Adkin’s viewpoints on the overall motives for Operation Urgent Fury, there were many flaws in the overall description of the battles. He especially appreciated Adkin’s point that “the bombing in Beirut had little or nothing to do with Reagan’s decision to go into Grenada. This had been brought up by those who would love to tarnish Reagan’s legacy as president.”10 However, as a soldier who was actually sent to fight in Grenada, Wood was able to point out some errors in the order and execution of some of the missions. Another reviewer, Timothy Shives, points out the book’s ability to shed light on the multiple blunders that occurred in the execution of Operation Urgent Fury. He writes that, “One of the great strengths of Adkin's work is going into significant detail about the background to the conflict, showing how it is that America ended up in this tiny corner of the Caribbean, suddenly needing to oust a communist government that had been in power for years.”11
This book is a great account of the Grenadian Revolution and the consequential invasion by the United States. It covers the internal struggles and motives that drove the multiple revolutions in Grenada. With his understanding of military procedures and usage of official records, Adkin is able to paint an accurate picture of the progression and execution of each day and its missions.
Overall, Urgent Fury does not support the assessment that the 1980’s were a time that the United States turned away from the 1960s liberalism and towards conservatism. Adkin does, however, support the decade as a time of political progressivism. His description of the United States as a rising world power shows the signs of the world police power that the country would later develop into. Grenada was just one of many communist insurrections and collapses. The 1980s as a whole saw an “international sweeping of Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe”12.
1. Adkin, Mark. 65.
2. Adkin, Mark. 37.
3. Adkin, Mark. 48.
4. Adkin, Mark. 59.
5. Adkin, Mark. 103.
6. Adkin, Mark. 149.
7. Adkin, Mark. 255.
8. Adkin, Mark. ix.
9. The European Revolutions of 1848 and 1989.” The European Revolutions of 1848 and 1989. N.p., n.d. Web.
10. W. Wood. “The Invasion of Grenada: ‘Urgent Fury’.”
11. Ely, Matt. “ ‘Review: Urgent Fury’ by Matt Ely.” The Chicago Tribune
12. “Revolutions of 1989.” – New World Encyclopedia. N.P., n.d. Web.