Students evacuated from Grenada: Marines protected us


CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct. 27, 1983 (UPI) - A group of American students evacuated from Grenada Thursday night said frightened Grenadian militiamen kicked down their door and held them prisoner for several hours after the U.S. invasion, and ''the Cubans were definitely out to get us.''

The 36 people brought out on the seventh evacuation flight from Grenada said they were from an area of the island where fighting was heavy and U.S. troops did not reach them until Thursday morning.


Marines, they said, formed ''human shields'' around them to get them to the evacuation plane.

The flight brought to 409 the number evacuated, most of them students at St. George's school of medicine. All but one of those interviewed was overjoyed to see U.S. troops, and several kissed the ground upon arriving.

Stewart Rasch, 25, of the Bronx, N.Y., said ''The people in Grenada were very much in support of the action, but I was not. We are meddling in others' business and overstepping our authorities as powers of peace.''


Rasch said he decided to leave the island for fear he would be taken hostage by fleeing Grenadian forces.

Bill Riffley said he and five friends lived in a house on a hill between the school's two campuses and Tuesday morning ''We woke up right in the middle of World War III. It was scary.''

That afternoon, he said, ''Our door was kicked in by the People's Revolutionary Army. There were about 30 Grenadians with AK-47s. They told us they were there to protect us.''

John Doyle, 25, Lyndenhurst, N.Y., tried to talk the Grenadians into releasing students. ''I asked them if we could leave. I said my roommmates were upstairs and they didn't want to die. They were medical students and they wanted to save lives.''

But he said the soldiers kept them in the house for about three hours while they peered out windows and raided the refrigerator, and finally told them they could leave.''

Riffley said the group fled to a friend's house at the bottom of the hill where they spent a terrifying night. ''The bombing was outrageous,'' he said. ''They had A-7s, out there, F-14s. They fly in at subsonic and the anti-aircraft never came close. They just marked their targets and a jet would come in and blow it up.''


On Wednesday, Riffley said, military trucks ''kept coming by and were decided to get out of there.'' He said they fled, running low for fear of Cuban snipers, to a house several blocks away.

He said there was bad feeling between the Cubans on the island and the American soldiers. ''Definitely the Cubans were out to get us. They didn't like us and we didn't like them. We wanted to get the hell out of there and call the Marines and have them blow up that hill.''

The passengers said Marines reached the area about 11 a.m. Thursday and walked them from two to four miles to the airport, forming a ''human shield'' around them, although they took no fire.

Richard Cascio of Birmingham, Mich., said the invading troops apparently launched a massive assault at dusk Wednesday on an area about ''200 yards from our house. It was the loudest thing I ever heard. There were F-14s and mortars shelling the area. It lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. Things got quiet then, but then there was intense mortar fire for three to four hours. All of us were lying on the floor. Our biggest fear was that they didn't know where we were and we would be hit by our own nation's gunfire.''


An earlier arrival, Joe Entario of Brooklyn, who was on the Grand Anse campus when the invasion began, said the attack reminded him of a movie.

''It was like 'Apocalypse Now' with five Marine helicopters coming in over the beach,'' he said. ''They had difficulty rescuing us. Bombs were going off. We were scared out of our wits.''

The Marines and Rangers freed the students from a frightening week of dormitory confinement under a ''shoot-to-kill'' curfew. The curfew was established after rioting broke out following the slaying of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop by a rival faction that placed him under house arrest Oct. 14.

The students were pinned down on their campus for 24 hours before being flown to Charleston. While they waited to get off the island, many worked in makeshift infirmaries set up to treat wounded soldiers and civilians.

Another of the students, Joseph DiLiberta of Worcester, Mass., who flew on to Boston after landing at Charleston, said, ''I don't see how anybody can criticize that invasion and I can't even call it an invasion. It was for our protection.''

DiLiberta said ''we were lying face down in our rooms... we had pillows over our head and blankets on the floor and the mattresses were turned over and pushed against the sliding glass doors in case there were any bombs dropped close to us and the glass broke.


''All we could hear were the front doors of the building open up and the Marines running down the hall. We weren't sure they were ours. And all of a sudden, they'd knock on the door and they'd just kick it open and they said 'American soldiers. Freeze!' We all looked up and all you could see were the rifles in the door.''

DiLiberta said the students in his group were ordered to stand up and go out single file through a column of Marines, to a helicopter on the beach about 100 yards away.

''They said 'We want you to run very fast. Don't look back and no luggage or it will be torn from you. Keep your head down and run to the helicopter. We ran and ran ... and we just jumped into the back of the helicopter.''

DiLiberta's wife, June, said the Marines ''gave us a wall. We ran between them and the beach and they stood there trying to protect us.''

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