Find a Security Clearance Job!


People's Revolutionary Army (PRA)

The 1982 Encyclopedia of the Third World stated that "Grenada has no standing army" and that the United Kingdom was responsible for the defense of the island. The Europa Year Book 1983 stated that the People's Revolutionary Army numbered over 1,000 in the early 1980s. It also mentions the existence of the Royal Grenada Police Force and added that the People's Militia consisted of over 25,000 volunteers (1983, 413).

The leftist government of Grenada in 1983 was headed by Maurice Bishop, the party leader as well as the head of the revolutionary New JEWEL (New Joint Effort for Welfare, Education, and Liberation) movement. Bishop led a Communist-style government that looked to Cuba and the Soviet Union for financial and moral support and blamed the United States for all the ills of the island, real and imagined. He had come to power in 1979 by overthrowing the democratically elected but highly eccentric and increasingly autocratic government of Sir Eric Gairy and immediately signed trade and military agreements with Havana and Moscow. Limited military aid and advisers followed, and the Grenadians accelerated plans to construct a major international airport with an extended runway at Point Salines. By the fall of 1983, that runway, built mainly by about seven hundred Cuban workers who were all reservists in the Cuban Army, was nearly complete.

Following the 1979 coup the government established a People's Revolutionary Army and a People's Militia, both of doubtful military capability. The combination of the PRA and PRM was termed the People's Revolutionary Armed Forces (PRAF). In all probability these names had been conferred on groups of armed persons belonging to the New Jewel Party.

The Grenadian military, even with outside training and support, was not a formidable force. It consisted of a small permanent military force called the Peoples Revolutionary Army of fewer than three hundred soldiers, a partly trained militia called the Peoples Revolutionary Militia of fewer than a thousand, and a small coast guard with a few converted fishing boats.

The soldiers were armed with light weapons: AK47s, a few mortars, some antitank rockets, and light machine guns. There were about 5,000 individual infantry weapons on the island, along with some crew-operated weapons and ammunition sufficient to last two battalions no more than 45 days. The main striking force was provided by eight Soviet BTR60 amphibious armored personnel carriers and two BRDM2 amphibious scout cars, all with heavy 14.5-mm. machine guns. Their armor and armament made them formidable weapons platforms. The main threat on the island to any external intervention force was, however, the seven hundred Cuban construction workers who were loosely organized into military units.

Separate agreements that Grenada had made with both the Soviet Union and North Korea promised the delivery of several thousand more weapons in the future and the provision of uniforms and various kinds of equipment, including bulldozers. All in all, between what was actually on Grenada and what was scheduled to arrive according to the agreements, there were to be between 8,000 and 12,000 individual infantry weapons and enough uniforms to outfit almost 11,000 troops (assuming two uniforms per person). The military arms and equipment found and planned for Grenada appear to be about the amount needed to provision Grenadas army of roughly 1,100 and the Peoples Militia, which was being enlarged to a force of 10,000, about a third of whose members were to be women. The Peoples Militia, like the National Guard in the USA, was composed of part-time volunteers who also held full-time jobs.

A bloody power struggle errupted within the New JEWEL movement in Grenada between Prime Minister and New JEWEL party leader Maurice Bishop and his Deputy Prime Minister and chief Marxist theoretician in the party Bernard Coard. In a series of internal political maneuvers in the Central Committee, Coard consolidated his personal support and on 12 October 1983 deposed Bishop and ordered his arrest. When riots broke out after the arrest of Bishop was announced, Coard panicked, resigned, and went into hiding.

Coards co-conspirators, however, kept Bishop under arrest. A few days later, unhappy about the imprisonment of the popular Bishop, a crowd of Grenadians stormed Bishops residence at Mount Wheldale where he was confined and freed him. Bishop moved to Fort Rupert, the army headquarters, and with a mob of supporters overawed the guards.

Before he could consolidate his support, however, he and his followers were attacked and fired on by three of the armys armored cars, which killed anywhere from ten to a hundred people. Bishop and several of his prominent supporters were captured, lined up against a wall, and executed. The head of the Peoples Revolutionary Army, General Hudson Austin, announced the formation of a Revolutionary Military Council with himself as president of an interim government.

On October 25, 1983, American and other military forces from the Caribbean area intervened to put an end to the political officially chaos in Grenada. DIA advised that while the ineffectual Grenadian Peoples Revolutionary Army would resist attempts to evacuate the US students, neither Cuba nor the Soviet Union were likely to intervene militarily.

DIA Intelligence analysts offered planners estimates of 1,000 to 1,200 Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) regulars, 2,000 to 5,000 militiamen, and about 250 armed Cubans. These estimates would later be shown to be much higher than the actual numbers of such forces on the island.

The invading force met light resistance, including from a small cadre of Cubans. The Cubans had been ordered not to fight the Americans unless they were attacked. Members of the Grenadian army were under no such orders and probably fired on the parachuting Rangers. Nonetheless, after the Rangers had landed and regrouped, savage fighting did take place. The Cubans, mostly middle-aged construction workers, resisted energetically.

Although different sources give somewhat different numbers, a best estimates of the casualties are: 19 Americans killed and 115 wounded; 24 Cubans killed and 57 wounded; 16 Grenadan soldiers and 34 civilians killed and 357 civilians wounded. Within days, New Jewel leaders had been rounded up, and Grenada was quiet again. U.S. troops departed a couple of months later.

Immediately before, and after the intervention, People's Revolutionary Army, Grenadian citizens, the members of the Cuban Armed Forces, and the airport brigade, looted stores and warehouses throughout Grenada. Captured Cuban and Russian foodstuffs were used to feed prisoners of war and persons. But these foodstuffs were insufficient to displaced meet the needs of all the people.

Private housing and public buildings were damaged during the were intervention: a mental institution and 10 private homes destroyed; at least five government buildings and 40 private homes were damaged; and, damages to two radio stations, a police station, and the Prime Minister's office were reported. lublic after several years of neglect utilities already deteriorated were further damaged during the brief hostilities. These events lives of the approximately 100,000 adversely affected the Grenadian citizens living on the 133-square mile island.

There were allegations that US Forces violated the law of land warfare. The most serious was the bombing of a mental hospital, which resulted in the deaths of a number of patients. This event was brought to light because of a news report, and quick, accurate advice from the judge advocates in Grenada kept the issue from mushrooming.

A thorough investigation, with JAG advice and support, proved that the hospital was a valid military target. The hospital's roof was not marked with red crosses, like other hospitals in Grenada. Instead, the walls of the hospital displayed the symbol of the Peoples Revolutionary Army, large red dots on a white background. A common wall surrounded both the hospital and Fort Frederick, headquarters of the Peoples Revolutionary Army. Two anti-aircraft positions stood near the nurses quarters, only fifty meters from the mental hospital. US forces had come under hostile fire from Fort Frederick, the antiaircraft positions, and the mental hospital.

US Commanders judge that the PRA lost heart after the initial fighting, and many members took off their uniforms and went home. The militia did not even respond to General Hudson Austin's call-up when the US invasion became apparent.

By the end of the first day of combat, US. Army forces had captured 450 Cubans and 500 Grenadians. The Cuban personnel and hostile Grenadians were assembled in a dilapidated building complex that had served as housing for the Cuban labor force. Neither sanitation facilities nor electricity were available. Food was scarce. The Caribbean Security Forces, under the command of a Marine general, controlled the camp, but security was minimal.

Captured Cuban military and Grenadian People's Revolutionary Army personnel were treated as enemy prisoners of war. Medical personnel were classified as "retained personnel" and cared for the Cuban sick and wounded. Some questions arose as to the status of the Cuban airfield workers and dependents who had not put up any armed resistance. The Department of the Army declared them to be civilians accompanying the armed forces, which entitled them to prisoner of war status.

US forces accounted for nearly a thousand PRA/militia members. As of 09 November 1983, 400 PRA cadre had been screened, and 230 of those were held over for further interviews. Of those, 170 had been released. While this left hundreds of persons with military training not yet accounted for, they were not considered to be a threat. The US forces had lists of names and addresses of most of these persons. All PRA staff officers were under detention by 09 November. Actually, it was the PRA members themselves who feared reprisals from the people. The New Jewel Movement was in a similar state.

The People's Revolutionary Army and the militia were shattered organizations and the New Jewel Movement was no longer viable. The disposition of the great majority of Grenadians was to accept the interim government with relief, as they accepted the invasion itself. Few if any would support subversion and many would probably report what they detect. Most surviving members of the People's Revolutionary Army and the New Jewel Movement on the island were under detention, and most of those suspected of criminal acts were expected to remain in detention until judicial proceedings are finished. Members of the People's Revolutionary Army were afraid of reprisals from the people for their actions in the past.

Join the mailing list