WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 1983 (UPI) - American troops came under such heavy attack by Cuban units three hours after their invasion of Grenada that the Pentagon was spurred to send in reinforcements from the Army's 82nd Airborne, officials said Thursday.
In the first major release of information about the assault on Grenada since the Marines spearheaded the invasion with a 5 a.m. EDT helicopter landing Tuesday at Pearls Airport, the Pentagon made it clear there had been no advance intelligence information about a major Cuban presence on the tiny island.
Four hundred Marines secured Pearls Airport, situated on the island's east coast, in two hours, the Pentagon said in an ''outline'' of events up to 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. It said the beach there was unsuitable for landing craft.
Army Rangers parachuted onto Point Salines airfield on Grenada's southwest coast 36 minutes after the Marine landing and secured that installation and its 2-mile-long, Cuban-built runway in less than two hours, the Pentagon said.
The elite Rangers cleared barriers from the runway, paving the way for landings by troop-carrying transports, it said.
By nearly 9 a.m. EDT, the Rangers had secured the True Blue campus of the U.S.-owned St. George's Medical School, situated near Point Salines, where about 500 students were studying, the Pentagon said.
But by 10:08 a.m. EDT, it said, U.S. troops came ''under heavy attack'' after securing the governor's house in the same area.
It ''becomes increasingly clear that there is (a) significant Cuban presence and involvement on the island,'' the Pentagon ''outline'' said. ''Cubans actively (are) engaging and resisting U.S. forces.''
The statement gave no indication of how many Cubans were involved in the resistance. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Vessey, said Wednesday original estimates had put the number of Cubans on Grenada at 500, with 350 of them thought to be construction workers.
But by late Wednesday, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said about 600 Cubans had been taken prisoner, most of them armed with Soviet-made AK-47 assault rifles.
At about the same time as the Rangers came under heavy fire, the Pentagon said, two battalions of the 82nd Airborne Division -- about 1,500 troops -- began an airlift to Grenada, presumably from Barbados 150 miles to the north.
By 2:17 p.m. EDT, ships in the Marine amphibious force moved from the east to the west coast of Grenada to land armored vehicles and Marines in support of the assault against Fort Frederick and to reinforce troops battling the Cubans around the house of the British governor-general, the Pentagon said.
Only about 200 Marines remained at Pearls airfield, it said.
By 7:30 p.m. EDT, about 250 Marines backed by five tank and 13 amphibious vehicles landed at Grand Mal, situated three miles north of the capital of St. George's, and moved inland, the Pentagon said. It said the governor's residence was secured about 12 hours later, shortly after dawn Wednesday, with Gov. Paul Scoon and 32 civilians evacuated.
The Marines moved on toward Fort Frederick, it said.
By 9:15 a.m. EDT, airborne units already on the island seized a Cuban observation post ''and reported that the Cubans (are) using their embassy as a command post,'' the Pentagon said.
At 11:30 a.m. EDT, ''airborne unit report medical students at medical school near Grand Anse still (are) surrounded,'' the outline said. It did not say whether Cuban or Grenadian forces had surrounded the campus.
A helicopter assault was launched against the Grand Anse school area at 4 p.m. EDT and six helicopters evacuated the students, the Pentagon said. It gave no further details.
The outline mentioned nothing about casualties -- American, Cuban or Grenadian.
At the White House, national security adviser Robert McFarlane said the United States had no intelligence sources on Grenada before the invasion, but denied the lack of knowledge indicated a major failure by U.S. intelligence agencies.
''I think when you don't have any intelligence resources there at all, something can't fault if it isn't there,'' he said.