The History of the boats in the Grenada Conflict



Operation Urgent Fury

Grenada, one of the smallest independent nations in the Western Hemisphere and one of the southernmost Caribbean islands in the Windward chain, has an area of only 133 square miles. The population is 110,000. But size is not necessarily the determining factor when governments consider strategic military locations. The Cuban government knew the value of Grenada's location when it decided to utilize the former British colony as a holding place for arms and military equipment, complete with a major airport. Eastern Caribbean nations fully understood the implication of the communist threat and called upon the United States for help.

The response was Urgent Fury, a multinational, multi-service effort created by a Presidential Decision to liberate US citizens on the Island of Grenada. While the entire scope of this Operation is too broad for the focus of this site, I will only concentrate on Combatant Craft Operations. For those in Naval Special Warfare they would be intimately involved. It began when Amphibious Squadron Four (ARG) was diverted in-route to its Mediterranean deployment to Grenada and ordered to prepare for Amphibious Landings and mission tasking. On board this ARG was a SEAL Team 4 Platoon, a SDV Team 2 platoon and two SBU-20 Special Boat Detachments (SBDs). One detachment was comprised of two SWCLs (Seafoxes) and the other had PB MKIIIs. But before the ARG forces began their mission tasking, another NSW force was carrying out theirs.



SEAL TEAM SIX was also tasked with the Grenada Operation. The SEALs moved their specially modified Boston Whalers to airfields and loaded them into two C-141s. They were planning to parachute the boats and Seals into the waters close to the Navy Destroyer USS Clifton Sprague and begin conducting Operations. SEAL Team Six had perfected Parachuting Boats with its SEALs and considered it a proven method of insertion. However On Oct 21, everything went wrong, especially the weather and timing. As a result of the air drop, 4 SEALs would be lost and one whaler lost. The survivors would not participate in operations on Grenada. Many lessons were learned as a result of this tragedy.


On Oct 25, The NSW ARG units commenced operations starting with its Seafoxes proceeding to launch point and inserted its Seals platoons who launched their 2 F-470s (Zodiacs). They proceeded in and did a Beach reconnaissance. They found the surf to rough for the Marine LVT and LCU/LCM landing craft. The SEALs then went ashore and found a more appropriate landing zone. As a result the Marine Force landed safely and Pearls Airfield was taken the next day. In SWCLs they also conducted a fathometer survey of St George' Harbor in daylight and marked the previously identified enemy emplacements that were shooting at them. The MKIII PBs conducted Barrier patrols to stop escaping Cubans and their Communist Grenadian counter parts. During this period one PB MKIII hit a uncharted coral reef, putting her out of action. The last action was when the OIC of the SEAL platoon that was aboard the PB MkIII detected a craft trying to slip through the patrolled area. The SEAL OIC called Marines to come out in a LVT to secure the craft. Onboard they discovered General Hudson Austin, the leader of the Cuban Backed Peoples' Revolutionary Army. So ended the Special Boat Detachments participation and Operation Urgent Fury.

[Submitted by GMCM Jim Gray (CC) ret.]

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