BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct. 25, 1983 (UPI) - U.S. troops and forces from six Caribbean nations invaded Marxist-led Grenada Tuesday, seizing the island's two airports and capturing Soviet and Cuban personnel in fierce battles that left two U.S. servicemen dead and 23 wounded.
Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga said 12 Cubans and three civilians of unknown nationality died in the fighting, and a ''vast quantity'' of Soviet weapons was captured at an airport being built on Grenada with Cuban help. More than 200 armed Cubans were taken prisoner, Pentagon sources said.
A force of 1,900 U.S. Marines and Army Rangers backed by 11 U.S. warships led the dawn invasion, accompanied by 300 troops and police from the Caribbean nations. There were reports that two U.S. helicopters were shot down.
The Pentagon said at least two Americans were killed and 23 others wounded in the battle for control of Grenada, the biggest American military operation since the Vietnam war and the first such action by U.S. troops since the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic.
A terse three-paragraph statement said American troops encountered resistance ''but most objectives have been taken'' during the first 12 hours.
The operation came six days after a militant, pro-Cuban Revolutionary Military Council, led by Army Commander Gen. Hudson Austin, took control of Grenada in a coup that left Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop dead.
In Washington, President Reagan said the operation was intended to thwart a bloody takeover on the Caribbean island nation 1,900 miles south of Miami by ''a brutal group of leftist thugs'' and protect some 1,000 Americans on Grenada.
''This collective action has been forced on us by events that have no precedent in the eastern Caribbean and no place in any civilized society,'' Reagan said. ''American lives are at stake.''
Reagan was joined in his news conference by Mary Eugenia Charles, the prime minister of Dominica, who defended the military action.
''This kind of assassination must not be allowed to continue,'' she said, adding Bishop was killed just as it appeared he was moving away from his previous Marxist policies and close ties with Cuba.
Besides Bishop, 16 others died in the clashes last Wednesday in the Grenadian capital. The coup was believed to be a bid by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, more militant than Bishop, to take control of the government.
The Dominica prime minister said there was clear evidence the Soviet Union and Cuba were behind the coup.
Reagan said he received ''an urgent, formal request'' Sunday from the five member nations of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States ''to assist in a joint effort to restore order and democracy on the island of Grenada.''
A spokesman for the OECS said an interim government would be formed under Governor General Paul Scoon, Queen Elizabeth II's representative on Grenada, a member of the British Commonwealth.
A U.S. military official said the bulk of the invasion force parachuted onto the island of 110,000 people. He said a U.S. AC-130 gunship suppressed anti-aircraft fire on the ground.
Seaga, whose country contributed troops to the invasion, told Jamaica's Parliament the landing forces encountered heavy fighting at Fort Frederick, where political prisoners were kept, and sniper fire in St. George's, the capital city.
He said, however, the invaders quickly seized their main objectives -- the U.S.-owned St. George's University medical school, Pearls airport, the new jet airport, a power station and broadcasting facilities of Radio Free Grenada.
''The Cuban fatalities resulted from the fact that Cubans who were supposed to be technicians turned out to be soldiers and were offering heavy fire to the invading forces,'' Seaga said.
A top Cuban official told Havana's Prensa Latina news agency that ''a small group'' from the Cuban military mission to Grenada was fighting the U.S.-led force along with Cuban ''construction workers, doctors and technicians,'' but denied Cuban troops were involved.
Caribbean Broadcasting Corp. of Barbados quoted sources on Grenada as saying a U.S. helicopter pilot was injured when his gunship was shot down. The radio later said a second U.S. helicopter was shot down.
CBC reported 32 Russian military advisers were taken prisoner.
About 600 Cubans, most described as construction workers, were on the island. Grenada has only 2,180 men in its regular army, but has 8,000 paramilitary forces. It has no air force or navy.
The official Soviet news agency, Tass, said the invasion exposed the United States as an aggressor to the world. ''The peacemaker's mask the Reagan administration had been donning has been cast off,'' Tass said.
In Moscow, Richard Jacobs, Grenada's ambassador to the Soviet Union, said the head of Grenada's armed forces told him 7,000 U.S. troops had invaded the island and over 1,200 Grenadians had been killed.
''He said people are taking up defensive positions in the hills and killing every American they can,'' Jacobs said.
''We have the best Soviet, Czech and North Korean military equipment. We will win the fight, no question about it,'' he said. Jacobs is being treated for arthritis in Moscow's Bodkin hospital.
In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Parliament that Britain had expressed ''considerable doubts'' when Reagan consulted with her Monday about the landing on Grenada, a member of the British Commonwealth.
A senior administration official stressed that the U.S. troops, both Marines and Army personnel, would be removed ''as quickly as possible, once order is restored.''
''People of Grenada, U.S. forces have intervened in Grenada at the request of your Caribbean neighbors to protect American citizens and other foreign nationals,'' said an announcer on a radio station set up by the invasion force.
The radio warned Grenadians to stay indoors ''away from windows and doors'' and then began playing pop music, including ''Your Kiss is on My List,'' by Hall and Oates and songs by the Beach Boys.
A resident of St. George's said the city was quiet but an armored personnel carrier was patrolling the streets.
Radio Free Grenada went off the air at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after announcing U.S. paratroopers and helicopter gunships had invaded the island and saying that ''our revolutionary forces are engaging them in battle.''
Grenada's only radio station, monitored in Barbados, called on all Grenadians to report to the offices of the people's militia and asked all doctors and nurses to report to work.
Leaders of the former British colonies in the OECS met Friday in Barbados to discuss the invasion and began moving their forces into Barbados over the weekend.
Seaga, a strong critic of Cuba and Grenada, met twice on Friday and Sunday with Barbados Prime Minister Tom Adams, apparently to coordinate the invasion.
The invasion took place despite a vote by the larger Caribbean Community, a common market of former British colonies and possessions, at an emergency summit in Trinidad not to call for armed intervention in Grenada.
Jamaican troops landed Monday in Barbados, 150 miles northeast of Grenada, aboard an Air Jamaica 727 and disembarked next to six U.S. Hercules C-130 aircraft and two C-141 Starlifter jets, UPI photographer Roso Sabalones said.
Besides forces from United States and Jamaica, policemen from St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and troops from Barbados and the Antigua Defense force participated in the landing, Western diplomatic sources said.
It was the fourth Marine invasion of a Caribbean nation in the 20th century. Marines invaded Haiti during the Woodrow Wilson administration when that nation defaulted on its loans, and occupied the country through the 1920s.
Marines also occupied the customs houses of the neighboring Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 when it defaulted on loans and landed again in 1965 after the bloody 1964 civil war, remaining until 1966.