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#1 Oct 25, 2017 7:28 am

Real Distwalker
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A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

The Jump Point Salines, Grenada
Tuesday Morning, October 25th 1983
Some of the Rangers onboard the aircraft tried to sleep in the cramped gun jeeps while most of us lay on mattresses on the aircraft’s metal floor. Ice cold water in an empty coffee can was passed around to help hydrate us for the hot climate on Grenada. The aircraft was forced to go the long route to Grenada due to the close proximity to Cuba and the omnipresent Russian travelers prowling around the ocean. About half way to the island around 0400, word was passed down that intelligence indicated our air land assault was not a viable option. Debris and heavy equipment was now blocking the runway. This meant our mission was changed from an air land insertion to an airborne parachute jump.

Rigging our parachutes and equipment in the cramped aircraft was difficult and time consuming. We did the best we could to buddy rig each other and check each other’s equipment. We wore the B-7 “water wings” over the parachute harness because the ocean was within close proximity to the runway. Initially, we carried one or two M-67 90mm anti-armor rounds in our rucksacks to help support the 90mm gunners. This was not an option since the 90mm rounds may explode on contact with the ground. We removed the 90mm rounds and LAW rockets out of our rucksacks and placed them in the gun jeeps. Additional ammunition for the M-60 machine guns was added to the rucksacks instead.

The 2nd Ranger Battalion did not use reserve parachutes because of the low-level altitude. But; this made it easier to attach the heavy rucksacks to the parachute harness. I attached my CAR-15 rifle sling to the harness and used a snap link through the rifle carrying handle as extra security since we were not using the padded usual M1950’s weapons case. I had a thirty-round magazine locked in the weapon’s magazine well and secured it with duct tape.

A large thunderstorm had just passed over the island which delayed our night insertion into a very bright daylight drop around 0730. We lined up the best we could in stick formation in the cramped space nestled between the gun jeeps and the aircraft’s outer skin. I was last in my stick toward the rear of the last gun jeep. I rested my heavy rucksack on the jeep’s rear bumper when a crew chief signaled to us that there was high winds and hostile fire on the drop zone. I looked behind me where a Ranger monitored the 1st Ranger Battalion’s jump clearing parachute landing on the command radio net. He shook his head indicating the situation was not good. The aircraft was doing evasive maneuvers to avoid the large caliber anti-aircraft fire from the surrounding hills ringing the airport. Instead of the normal jump altitude of one thousand feet above ground level (AGL); we went under the enemy guns defilade at five hundred feet to minimize ground fire exposure.

I positioned myself to move towards the right door. This was difficult since I now had to hook the static line to the cable and move along the floor cargo rollers and squeeze next to the two gun jeeps as my stick was already exiting the troop doors. The aircraft was also maneuvering trying to evade the ground fire. The crew chief and jump master assisted me the last few steps and I did a non-textbook exit out the door.

The opening shock was tremendous since we were flying at one hundred fifty knots instead of the normal one hundred thirty five knots. I immediately released my heavy rucksack and felt the tug of the lowering line. The runway was underneath me, meaning no water jump. The sound was deafening as Soviet-made ZSU-23mm anti-aircraft (AA) fire filled the sky with black explosions.
Large caliber crew-served 12.7mm guns firing silver tracer rounds arced toward our departing aircraft. I did my best to pull down on the T-10 parachute’s risers to slip into the high wind. I saw green tracer rounds coming up from several enemy soldiers firing wildly with their AK-47’s at the Rangers. They were close enough to me to distinguish the Soviet-style green helmets they were wearing. Several of the tracer rounds went over and under me. The ground was coming up very quickly and I realized it was going to hurt.

My heavy rucksack slammed onto the concrete runway and then I landed and was drug down the runway in the high wind. I had difficulty releasing the parachute release capewells on my harness due to the strain on the inflated parachute and the heavy rucksack acting like an anchor. I grabbed my Marine Corps K-Bar knife and sliced the suspension lines to stop the inflated parachute.
One enemy soldier was still firing at me as sand kicked up all around me. I still had my parachute harness attached and stood up to engage the soldier with my rifle. I was attempting to charge a round of ammunition in my rifle when several bright silver flashes exploded near the soldier and the concussions slapped me in the chest. I looked up and saw an AC-130 Specter gunship circling above in a left-hand pattern. Its 40mm Bofors guns must have taken him out. The AC-130 crew could indentify friend from foe with our infrared tape on our uniforms. I cut some parachute cord and fabric from my chute for souvenirs before rolling it up and tossing off the runway knowing that our aircraft would be inbound shortly.

I saw several Rangers signaling to me across the runway from the beach next to Hardy Bay. I had landed on the northern area of the runway on the enemy’s side. My rucksack frame was broken from the impact; but, there was not much I could do about it then. I put my rucksack on and hurried across the runway when I noticed that the Rangers were wearing 1st Ranger Battalion scrolls on their green jungle fatigues. I must have landed in the 1st Ranger Battalion’s area missing my designated drop zone. Several 2nd Battalion Rangers landed near me and we rallied next to the beach. One Ranger landed in the ocean behind us and he bobbed to the surface after inflating his water wings. You could tell he was very angry as he dragged his wet rucksack containing a heavy 60mm mortar base plate.

We watched as two jumpers wearing BDU uniforms and the new Kevlar helmets land next to us on the runway. They were heavy equipment operators from the 82nd Airborne Division in case that they would have to operate some of the Soviet construction equipment around the airport. One of the jumpers calmly rolled up his parachute up and placed it in a kit bag; then took off his helmet and calmly lit a cigarette like this was a practice jump back at Fort Bragg.

Two 2nd Battalion weapons platoon Rangers setup a 60mm mortar and began firing the rounds toward the surrounding hills. I gladly gave up my two mortar rounds from my rucksack to the crew and watched the rounds hit in the hills where enemy mortar and heavy weapons fire was coming from. Without proper maps, their task was more difficult in a time before GPS, drones and real time satellite imagery as we have today. The mortar crew abruptly left, heading on down the beach to the 2nd Ranger Battalion’s designated area of operation.

Another medic from my unit, SP4 Kevin Lannon from Alpha Company showed up and we debated on going back down to our Battalion area. Lannon did not make the alert order at Fort Lewis the morning of the 22nd. He was completing the final phase of the Special Forces Medical School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was put in a van and driven down to our staging area at Hunter Army Airfield. He borrowed equipment, rifle, pistol and used his blue REI bookbag as an medical bag for the mission. 1st Ranger Battalion, Bravo Company Commander, CPT Newman saw we were medics and said we should stay attached with them. There was still a lot of hostile fire and the 1st Ranger Battalion just lost several men in an ambush that we witnessed a couple hundred meters down the runway. He said he would later contact our unit on our status. Lannon and I took position behind a Soviet-made bulldozer as several Rangers hotwired the dozer and headed up the hill to engage the threat in the hills.

I was watching them advance up the hill when an explosion landed nearby stinging my left hand. A small piece of hot shrapnel was sticking in my knuckle. I grabbed the small piece of exposed shrapnel and pulled it out and that hurt like hell as the metal was lodged in the bone. The cut was now bleeding badly and Lannon shook his head at me. He wrapped my hand in gauze and continued to watch the bulldozer team clear the hills. Soon our aircraft were attempting to land and dislodge our gun jeeps and Air Force CCT ATVs. The aircraft were now very low on fuel and needed to refuel in Barbados. The decision was now made to assault across the runway and move inland.

The Assault Approximately 1000 hours

It was hard not to notice the amount of equipment that littered the runway from the jump as we raced across the runway. Grenades, rifle magazines, canteens and other equipment that fell out of rucksacks scattered the drop zone. Later, a 1st Battalion Ranger handed me a green notebook covered with blood. He asked if I knew this Ranger and I said yes, I know him very well. He was one of my platoon squad leaders and we jumped together on the same aircraft. I later met up with him and he didn’t know how the blood got there. We organized in a Ranger wedge formation and approached the airport terminal and a nearby construction yard. Automatic weapons fire from a Soviet RPD light machine gun was firing to our front. Several Rangers flanked the gun and took out the threat killing at least one enemy soldier and wounding two more.

Nearby, we noticed vast caches of weapons and ammunition in crates stenciled “Caribbean Construction Company” on them with Bill of Lading earmarked to Nicaragua. Weapons and ammunition from North Korea, Soviet Union, China and many other Soviet Bloc countries were in crates and large weapons were lying outside the buildings. Unknown to us at the time, Grenada was a major weapons conduit to Central America. The after-action report later stated that the enemy used brand new AK-47 assault rifles without zeroing them thus reducing their accuracy when they were firing at us during the jump. Some of the AK-47’s still had Cosmoline preservative in the barrels.

Later, Lannon and noticed a 1st Battalion Ranger guarding two local Grenadian women in brightly colored dresses. We assumed that they were wounded since they were crying and screaming. The Ranger said no they were not wounded but, explained that when we jumped in they thought that we were Russians. That meant that they were truly screwed. When they saw we were Americans, it was like Jesus Christ landed to rescue them and they started crying for joy. It was amusing at the time.

One of the lessons learned during Urgent Fury was that the Rangers could improvise very quickly and still accomplish the mission. Case in point was we spotted a Cuban mortar position a few hundred meters away but too far to engage with our small arms. The Forward Observer (FO) with us could not contact a circling Marine Corps Attack helicopter on the radio. The American Armed Forces back then could not communicate as fluidly as we do now. The FO used two signal mirrors to signal the helicopter and used hand and arm motions to indicate the general direction of the threat and thus destroying the mortar with a rocket. This was a time before drones, lasers and military technology that we take for granted today.

Bravo Company, 1st Ranger moved toward high ground overlooking a large Cuban compound. The hill was nicknamed Goat Hill because the local farmer had many goats roaming the hillside. I finally got to eat my C-rat can of beans and franks when several Rangers tried to signal two Rangers on dirt-bikes below us. They rode right into an ambush outside the Cuban compound. Both Rangers were wounded in the tall grass near the compound. Bravo Company Rangers provided protective fire into the compound defending the wounded Rangers. A Scout Sniper team engaged enemy movement in and around the compound perimeter. Soon, a lull in the fighting allowed other Rangers to evacuate the two Rangers in which they sustained non-fatal leg wounds.

A 1st Battalion Ranger that spoke Spanish encouraged the compound to surrender. An estimated eighty enemy soldiers with weapons moved out of the compound surrendering to our small Ranger force. We told the soldiers to drop their weapons where they were which meant that we later had to collect the weapons out of the field. Searching the soldiers yielded essential elements of information (EEI) like maps, documents and even a few knives. One captured soldier looked out of place. Most Cubans and Grenadians are dark skinned. This man was white with blond hair. He was an East German military advisor sent there to aid the Cuban military contingent on Grenada. We were told to turn him over to the “CIA man” dressed in camouflaged fatigues. The advisor was taken back to his embassy as a professional courtesy.

Bravo Company, 1st Ranger Battalion setup a casualty collection point (CCP) and POW search area so the wounded and prisoners could be treated, searched and moved to the beach area. Prisoners were secured with prusik handcuffs made from discarded parachute cord or duct taped their hands together. A large white Soviet-made dump truck with “USA” painted on the side was utilized to transport the wounded to an aid station near the beach. Lannon and I noticed a 1st Battalion Ranger medic working on a wounded People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) insurgent with the medic’s rifle lying on the ground near some of the captured soldiers. We watched the men as they looked at the weapon. Lannon had that, “make my day” look and was ready to blow them away instantly if they tried for that rifle.

Several Grenadian medical students were working on an enemy soldier that sustained a gunshot wound through the abdominal region. The soldier was receiving IVs from glass bottles that were common in the region. We noticed that the students were using Normal Saline for fluid instead of a blood expander like Ringer’s Lactate, the kind we carried for traumatic wounds. We switched out their fluid for ours and still the man’s condition was not improving. We then became aware that blood was dripping through the litter. The medical students did not check for an exit wound. Lannon and I placed a large abdominal dressing to the exit wound and secured it with six-inch Ace wraps and transported him to the beach.

Another enemy soldier sustained a gunshot wound through the left thigh causing him to scream very loudly. I gave him one of my morphine syrettes in his other leg, slowly squeezing the narcotic from the toothpaste shaped syrette into the muscle. He immediately calmed down enough to reinforce his wound with Kerlix gauze and securing it with an Ace wrap.

Soon it was getting dark and Captain Newman thanked us for the help and released us back to our Battalion. Before moving across the dark runway, we decided to “liberate” some food from some lockers in the airport terminal. I found some mangoes and Albanian sardines while Lannon tried some Cuban cigarettes. I finally linked up with my platoon and reported back to the company command post where my company commander and 1SG was very angry at me since Lannon and I was still considered missing in action.

The 1st Ranger Battalion apparently did not inform them of our whereabouts during the early hours after the airborne insertion. I reported our activities after the jump and the movement inland towards the Cuban compound. I made it back to my platoon area and reported to my platoon leader and took turns manning one of the platoon’s M-60 machine guns resting on a tripod facing the runway. I dined on the liberated food and watched through my PVS-5’s night vision goggles as large cargo planes landed throughout the night. Sporadic green tracer fire was seen down towards the 1st Ranger Battalion’s area coming from the hills only to be answered by red tracer machine gun fire from the Rangers. A slight rain and drizzle filled the sky as we stood our watch. The first day of Operation Urgent Fury was beyond a doubt an unforgettable one.

Rangers Lead the Way!

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#2 Oct 25, 2017 6:55 pm

New Historian
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

An excellent tale excellently told! So you left your blood on the soil of Grenada? Well thank you sir.

So, was that "the best day of your life"?

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#3 Oct 25, 2017 7:20 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

Oh!  That wasn't my narrative.  That was a Ranger named Scott Underdonk.  My story was much less exciting or interesting. :-)

I flew in on a helicopter from Barbados and didn't engage in combat directly.

I should have made that clear.

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#4 Oct 25, 2017 7:30 pm

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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

Oh shame lol, it didn't dent a great tale though. Still it must have been quite a "thrill", being within touching distance of all that REAL action. So, the question remains:

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#5 Oct 25, 2017 7:43 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

It wasn't the best day of my life by any measure.  In fact, I was scared flying in.  I would like to say that I was John Rambo but I was three weeks past my 20th birthday flying into combat in a helicopter.   By the time I flew in four helicopters had been shot down and most of the American deaths were on those birds.  That wasn't lost on me so I was really nervous.   

The first time I fired my weapon it jammed over and over. Made me feel like a fool. It was a belt fed M-60 and the ammo kept getting caught up in the straps supporting the weapon.  Luckily it wasn't really combat.  I was firing warning shots into the sea to warn off boats trying to approach the island.  They held up signs saying PRESS but they weren't supposed to land.  I shot in the water to make them turn back to the North,

At one point we landed in a soccer field and two officers wanted to get an aerial view.  They got in and I got out.  The pilot said they would be right back.  That's when I realized I was alone except for about a 100 Grenadians looking at me.  I still didn't know what was what so I was scared as shit.  I went into the trees and laid there with my machine gun.  No one approached and when the helicopter came back I chewed the ass of my commanding officer... and he apologized!!

So, it was like that.  I did my duty, hurt no one and sure as hell wasn't a hero.

Last edited by Real Distwalker (Oct 25, 2017 7:45 pm)

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#6 Oct 25, 2017 7:48 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

Here I am, out at the west end of Point Salines in November of 1983.

hooch.jpg

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#7 Oct 25, 2017 7:57 pm

New Historian
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

Hehe I can imagine you up the tree with your weapon: stay far!

Grenada: The last "good" American invasion!!

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#8 Oct 25, 2017 7:59 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

New Historian wrote:

Hehe I can imagine you up the tree with your weapon: stay far!

Seriously!  I was only on island for a short time at that point.  I didn't know Grenadians or what they might do.  It didn't take me long to realize I was safe but I didn't know it then.

For the record, the folks around me were being about as cautious about me as I was being with them!

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#9 Oct 25, 2017 8:01 pm

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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

I can well imagine: you've just invaded them fafuxake lol. After the dust settle, was the welcome as warm as I've heard?"

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#10 Oct 25, 2017 8:06 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: A Ranger describes his day: October 25, 1983

It was warm in Grenville.  Those folks acted like we were family.  A woman took my hand and said "God bless your mother's womb".  Nobody blessed my mother's uterus before or after.

Actually, it was all pretty good.  Once in St. Georges an old drunk dude came out and started pushing a soldier and saying "Americans!  What the [f word]!".   Everybody else came running over with handguns drawn and a younger man took him back inside smiling and apologizing.  Off the top of my head that is the only time I can remember anyone being angry... well, except those who shot at us.

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