Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Grenada

English-speaking island nation located in the southern Caribbean Sea north of Trinidad. A tiny nation of just 133 square miles, Grenada had a 1945 population of approximately 76,000 people. Upon its discovery by Christopher Colombus in 1498, the island was inhabited by Carib and Arawak Indians. It was settled in 1650 by French colonists, who ceded it to the British in 1783.

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and a small number of Cuban forces (how many is disputed) put up some resistance, but by December 1983 U.S. forces had withdrawn, having installed an interim pro-American government.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


Further Reading
Steele, Beverley A. Grenada: A History of Its People. New York: Macmillan, 2003.
 

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