That time a soldier used a payphone to call back to the US to get artillery support in Grenada

In October 1983 the Caribbean nation of Grenada experienced a series of bloody coups over the course of a week, threatening U.S. interests as well as U.S. citizens on the island. In a controversial move, President Reagan decided to launch Operation Urgent Fury, an invasion of the island nation (and the first real-world test of the all-volunteer force in combat).

grenadainvasion1

The Grenadian forces were bolstered by Communist troops from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, and Bulgaria. The U.S. rapid deployment force was more or less an all-star team of the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions, the 82nd Airborne, U.S. Marines, Delta Force, and Navy SEALs. Despite the strength of the invasion force, planning, intelligence, communication and coordination issues plagued their interoperability (and led to Congress reorganizing the entire Department of Defense). Army helicopters couldn’t refuel on Navy ships. There was zero intelligence information coming from the CIA. Army Rangers were landed on the island in the middle of the day.

The list of Urgent Fury mistakes is a long one, but one snafu was so huge it became legend. The basic story is that a unit on the island was pinned down by Communist forces. Interoperability and communications were so bad, they were unable to call for support from anywhere. A member of the unit pulled out his credit card and made a long-distance call by commercial phone lines to their home base, which patched it through to the Urgent Fury command, who passed the order down to the requested support.

GrenadaNewsCartoon

The devil is in the details. The Navy SEALs Museum says the caller was from a group of Navy SEALs in the governor’s mansion. He called Fort Bragg for support from an AC-130 gunship overhead. The gunship’s support allowed the SEALs to stay in position until relieved by a force of Recon Marines the next day. Some on the ground with the SEALs in Grenada said it was for naval fire support from nearby ships.

The story is recounted in Mark Adkins’ Urgent Fury: the Battle for Grenada. Another report says it was a U.S. Army “trooper” (presumably meaning “paratrooper”) who called his wife to request air support from the Navy. Screenwriter and Vietnam veteran James Carabatsos incorporated the event into his script for “Heartbreak Ridge” after reading about an account from members of the 82nd Airborne. In that version, paratroopers used a payphone and calling card to call Fort Bragg to request fire support.

In his 2011 memoir, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” former Vice President Dick Cheney recalls visiting the island as a congressman and listening to an Army officer tell the story. 

“An army officer who had needed artillery support… could look out to sea and see naval vessels on the horizon, but he had no way to talk to them. So he used his personal credit card in a payphone, placed a call to Fort Bragg, asked Bragg to contact the Pentagon, had the Pentagon contact the Navy, who in turn told the commander off the coast to get this poor guy some artillery support. Clearly a new system was needed.”

The story has a happy ending from an American POV. These days, the U.S. invasion is remembered by the Grenadian people as an overwhelmingly good thing, as bloody Communist revolutions ended with the elections following the invasion. Grenada marks the anniversary of the U.S. intervention with a national holiday, its own Thanksgiving Day.

TOP ARTICLES
These are the military traditions for deployed troops celebrating Thanksgiving

While you're deployed, weekends aren't really a thing — neither are most holidays. Thanksgiving, however, is a moment when the military slows down.

Forget multitasking, this Navy squadron has only one mission — rescue people

The Navy has an entire squadron for search and rescue, and it is the only squadron in the Navy that has an advance life-support helicopter platform.

How the Coast Guard intercepts half a million pounds of cocaine

For the last couple decades, the Coast Guard has pushed out further, taking more aggressive stabs at the flow of drugs that make their way into the U.S.

More remains of Special Forces soldier found in Niger

The Department of Defense announced that military investigators found additional remains that they have positively ID'd as Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

'Butcher of of Bosnia' sentenced to life in prison for genocide

"The Butcher of Bosnia" was handed a life sentence on November 22nd, 2017, for war crimes and the slaughter of 8,000 men and young children.

New engravings on the USMC War Memorial honor Iraq and Afghanistan Marines

On Nov. 22, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial was updated to include Afghanistan and Iraq in the list of campaigns that runs along the memorial's base.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

As the Islamic State loses the in real life war they've waged against the world, they've moved their game online- waging war in the virtual world.

Everything you need to know about Zimbabwe's ousted dictator

The dictator of Zimbabwe announced his resignation on Nov. 21, 2017 after the county's army took of the capital and family, forcing the resignation.

Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Watch this adorable little boy steal into the hearts of all the Marines and civilians present as he promotes his dad and pins on his promoted rank.

Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

A North Korean attempting to defect to the South, who was found to be full of parasites, was shot by his fellow soldiers. We Are the Mighty has the video.