Early on the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a truck bomb detonated beside the U.S. Marine barracks at Lebanon’s Beirut International Airport, killing 241 American servicemen. That evening President Ronald Reagan gave his final approval for Operation Urgent Fury— the American invasion not of Lebanon but of Grenada.
Two battalions of elite U.S. Army Rangers had received a warning order days before and were already preparing to assault the Caribbean island. But at Fort Bragg, N.C., the 82nd Airborne Division, which would supply most of the invasion force, was caught by surprise.
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff handed Operation Urgent Fury to Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III’s Joint Task Force 120, which comprised the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit, the Joint Special Operations Command and the 82nd Airborne Division. Since the invasion was precisely the kind of mission for which special operations forces trained, JSOC played a leading role from the start. Its Task Force 123 included Army Ranger battalions and Delta Force operators, Navy SEALs and Air Force Combat Control Teams.