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Preface from “A Fortnight of Fury” by David Culberson. Book being edited and will be out soon.

October, 1983

The world witnessed an escalation of the cold war as the Soviet Union grasped for financial straws in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s anti-communist rhetoric and defense spending. Fidel Castro, after failing to gain a foothold for his unique revolution on the African continent sought one closer to home and was knocking on the doors of Grenada and Dominica. On October 23rd, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a US Marine barracks in Beirut and killed, besides himself and a passenger, two hundred-forty one marines. Reagan was loaded for bear. America needed a win. Reagan pounced. His target was an idyllic island in the Windward chain of the lower Caribbean whose primary export, besides tourism, was nutmeg. Maurice Bishop, Grenada’s Prime Minister and a Marxist, who wanted better medical care and education for the people of his island, was not interested in becoming a regional military power. He had recently been placed in jail by an extreme faction of his political party that wanted a stronger military presence on the island, but not before bringing in six hundred Cuban construction workers to build nine thousand-foot runway that, according to the US, could possibly land Soviet military aircraft. The runway and Bishop’s closeness to Castro were two ingredients that stoked the fires of an invasion by the United States. Then Bishop was executed, which brought the world’s attention to Grenada and the safety of foreigners on the island. The final ingredient needed to justify Reagan’s invasion was a medical school on the island where eight hundred American students hoped to receive degrees.

Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada, began on October 25th, 1983. Bombs dropped against a backdrop of lush mountain jungles and sugary sand beaches bleached by the Caribbean sun. In the villages, chickens strutted around brightly painted wood shacks with metal roofs. Roosters crowed. Goats huddled under trees and in makeshift bus stops, trying to avoid humans. Locals that were not part of the People’s Revolutionary Army went about their daily routines. Children played soccer and cricket. Women opened shutters and swept porches; some carried baskets of fruit on their heads to local markets. Many men, on their way to clear brush, rode bicycles with machetes strapped to their backs. A few locals set up coolers and folding tables along roadsides so they could sell a Jonny cake and an ice cold bottle of beer for less than a dollar. All wore thin clothes and broad smiles.

As mighty as it was, the military invasion could not obscure the backdrop. As acrid smoke from exploded ordinance filled the air, roosters still crowed. The rat-tat-tat of automatic firearms enveloped the island and the goats still huddled. Locals came out to line the roadsides to cheer the US forces as they flooded the county. The beaches remained pristine, beckoning tourists, who didn’t show up. Soldiers died. Calypso music played through cheap speakers set up at road intersections or near the cricket fields. Helicopters crashed while the intense Caribbean sun shone through the smoky haze of gunfire. Chickens led their chicks through the marauding armies as though they were just another nuisance in their quest to avoid mongoose—who have an insatiable craving for baby chickens.

And the war went on.

The world saw none of this. Journalists weren’t allowed on the island during the first few days of the invasion. But a handful of locals from a neighboring island, on a totally different mission, unwittingly landed on Grenada on the eve of Operation Urgent Fury. What they witnessed was surreal—a harsh brush stroke of battle painted across the colorful, whimsical canvass that was the Caribbean.

It was as though Disney had gone to war.