BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct. 22, 1983 (UPI) -- Ten U.S. warships sailed toward the violence-wracked Caribbean island of Grenada Saturday, prompting its new Marxist leaders to mobilize their forces for a possible invasion. Two American diplomats flew in to check on U.S. citizens.
The diplomats assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown flew to St. George's, the capital of Grenada, to check on the fate of nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens there and assist any who want to leave.
''We're fine, everybody's fine,'' Terry Bernard, the wife of a medical student in Grenada, said about the Americans in Grenada in a telephone interview with United Press International.
A U.S. navy task force initially bound for the Middle East with 1,900 Marines was rerouted and ordered to sail toward Grenada, a Pentagon source said.
The source said the task force, including the aircraft carrier Independence and the amphibious assault ship Guam, would arrive off the coast of Grenada late in the afternoon.
He said the task force underscored Washington's intention to safeguard the lives of the U.S. citizens on the island, most of whom are connected with the St. George's University Medical School.
Cuba said Saturday the dispatch of the U.S. taskforce to Grenada had raised tension in the eastern Caribbean ''to the maximum'' and warned the ''threat of a U.S. military intervention is dangerously taking shape.''
The Cuban state news agency, Prensa Latina, said the American move was to take ''advantage of the latest developments to liquidate the Grenadan process in one fell swoop.
''Only a few days after the moving internal events in Grenada, the threat of a U.S. military intervention is dangerously taking shape,'' Prensa Latina, said in a dispatch from Havana, monitored in Mexico City.
Lt. Col. Liam James, one of the vice chairmen of Grenada's new ruling Revolutionary Military Council, said any reports American citizens were in danger were ''blatant lies.''
He said it was Grenada, where pro-Cuban Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was killed Wednesday after a struggle with even more radical members of his regime, which was ''in danger of an attack at any point in the next few days.''
Radio Free Grenada confirmed 17 people were killed in Wednesday's violence, including Bishop, three Cabinet ministers and two trade union leaders.
The radio repeatedly broadcast orders to all members of the people's militia to report for duty and ordered drivers of all government vehicles except hospital ambulances to turn in their keys.
At the same time, the new rulers also sought to project a moderate image.
Gen. Hudson Austin, the head of the Military Council, announced he would appoint a Cabinet within two weeks to run the island, 90 miles north of Venezuela.
He also said he might call elections soon and planned to reopen the airport to normal traffic on Monday.
A spokesman for the council announced policies similar to those espoused by the marxist New Jewel Movement, promising to improve the economy, health and education through a mixed system of private and state enterprise.
''Efforts made recently to better relations with the U.S. government will continue,'' the spokesman said, promising a policy of non-alignment.
The two diplomats who flew to Grenada to check on the fate of some 1,000 Americans on the island were identified as Political Counselor Kenneth Kurze and Vice Consul Linda Flohr. They were accompanied by a British diplomat named David Montgomery.
The chancellor's office at St. George's University Medical School said Kurze and Ms. Flohr arrived on a chartered flight and went immediately to the American-owned school to meet with administrators and students.
St. George's University School of Medicine, with two campuses in St. George, has a student body of 650 and 150 faculty members and relatives. All but about 10 percent are Americans.
In Bayshore, N.Y., Arthur Massolo, a spokesman for the school, said the diplomats' visit was arranged by university vice chancellor Geoffrey Bourne in a meeting with members of the ruling Military Council.
He said the new rulers assured Bourne Americans in Grenada would be safe and asked that the school remain on the island.
''They also said they would like to open up a dialogue with the United States government,'' Massolo said, adding that the message was then conveyed to the State Department.