Grenada gained independence in 1974 but remained a member of the British Commonwealth. On 13 March 1979, Maurice Bishop staged a bloodless coup, promising economic reform and a mildly socialist state. On 13 October 1983 Grenada's former deputy prime minister, Bernard Coard, launched a coup against Bishop's government. Bishop was killed on 19 October, and Coard proceeded to install a hard-line Marxist regime. The new government sought and received help from Cuba in building, among other projects, an airport.
During a period of significant Cold War tensions, President Ronald Reagan's administration was not keen on a hard-line communist government taking root in the region. With the backing of nearby Caribbean states, the United States launched an invasion of the island (code-named Operation urgent fury) on 23 October 1983. The invasion took place just two days after the lethal bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. Some commentators saw urgent fury as a way for Reagan to divert attention from the Lebanon crisis. The Grenadian Army and a small number of Cuban forces (how many is disputed) put up some resistance, but by December 1983 U.S. forces had withdrawn, having installed an interim pro-American government.
The Grenada invasion can be seen as a successful attempt by the Reagan administration to accomplish several tasks at once: draw a line in the sand over new socialist states after failing to stop Nicaragua's Marxist revolution, strike at Fidel Castro, and provide U.S. armed forces their first clear-cut victory in the aftermath of the Vietnam War debacle.
David H. Richards
Steele, Beverley A. Grenada: A History of Its People. New York: Macmillan, 2003.