ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada — The planes began flying over Grenada around dawn, their low rumble awakening people in the Caribbean island where a military government had seized power days before and executed the prime minister.
More than 7,000 US Marines and Army paratroopers invaded the island to the cheers of Grenadians, who commemorate the 1983 action with a national holiday known as Thanksgiving Day. About 100 people died during the operation dubbed ‘‘Urgent Fury.’’
Dozens of US veterans, Grenadians, and former US students evacuated from Grenada’s medical school during the operation gathered Friday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most popular foreign invasions in recent history and what was then the largest US military operation since the Vietnam War.
Months before the operation, President Ronald Reagan had complained about Soviet-Cuban militarization of the Caribbean and expressed worries that a new Cuban-backed 10,000-foot runway in Grenada would be used by Soviet military planes.
Then on Oct. 19, 1983, Grenada’s Marxist prime minister Maurice Bishop, three members of his Cabinet, and four others were executed by a radical faction of his Cuba-backed party on orders of then-Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. Six days later, Reagan sent in US troops, helped by a few hundred Caribbean security forces. Reagan said the invasion was necessary to protect the lives of the more than 600 US students at St. George’s University School of Medicine.