The 82nd Airborne artillery personnel loads and fires M102 105 mm howitzers during Operation Urgent Fury on November 3, 1983. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army via Wikipedia
Nov. 3, 1983 (UPI) -- President Reagan, declaring U.S. troops successfully accomplished their mission in Grenada, today said the American invasion force will begin withdrawing from the island within days.
U.S. Army spokesmen in the Grenadan capital said troops from the 82nd Airborne division were packing their gear and as many as 2,300 soldiers would be flown home in a single wave starting as early as today.
U.S. Embassy officials in Barbados said the United States was rushing $3.45 million in emergency relief to the battle-scarred island.
Reagan told a White House news conference that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger had informed him Wednesday night the U.S. objectives had been met since American forces invaded the Caribbean island ten days ago to crush a hardline Marxist government that seized power in a coup.
Reagan hailed the U.S. forces as ''liberators'' and in an angry exchange with a reporter denied the operation was similar to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He called Grenada ''a rescue mission.''
Asked about the vote Wednesday in the U.N. General Assembly condemning the American action, he said ''one hundred nations in the United Nations have not agreed with us on just about everything that has come before us where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all.''
Earlier, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the apparent final casualty count for the invasion was 18 U.S. servicemen killed and 89 wounded. He said all American troops had been accounted for.
Speakes said that with the return of 57 wounded and 10 medical personnel to Cuba Wednesday, there are ''585 Cuban detainees'' still on Grenada.
He said arrangements were being made for their repatriation, a move that would clear up a nasty diplomatic dispute that has emerged with Havana over the prisoners.
Speakes said there were 5,980 Army troops still on the island and a small number of Air Force personnel as well as 350 members of a ''Caribbean peace force'' from neighboring island nations.
He said 1,900 Marines and 700 Army Rangers already had left the island.
On Grenada, where some military units turned to trying to bring life back to normal, other American forces prepared to withdraw.
U.S. military spokesmen on the nearby island of Barbados said C-141 transports were standing by to fly troops of the Army's 82nd Airborne back to Fort Bragg, N.C.
The spokesmen said the withdrawal might begin late today, but it could not be confirmed because communications remain largely cut to Grenada. They noted the troops also had to load and fly out support equipment, including trucks.
Earlier, the Army spokesman on Grenada, Maj. Douglas Frey, said 2,300 soldiers would leave.
In Havana, the Cubans wounded during the initial stages of the invasion returned to a hero's welcome led by a grim-faced President Fidel Castro.
Thousands of spectators ignoring a call on national radio to stay away lined the airport road and a military band played Cuba's national anthem as the wounded descended from the Red Cross DC-8 into a drizzling rain.
Cuban diplomats in Grenada, their embassy surrounded by U.S. troops, continued to resist orders from Grenada Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon to leave.
Officials said the diplomats would remain on the tiny Caribbean island 1,900 miles southwest of Miami until the release of the Cuban prisoners who were moved Wednesday into a new prisoner compound on a hill near the Cuban-built Point Salines Airport.
The U.S. troops and about 300 others from six Caribbean nations invaded the island Oct. 25, less than a week after Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was executed during a bloody coup by more hardline members of his government and army.
Voice of Barbados radio said Wednesday Bishop, shot by government troops Oct. 19 along with three Cabinet ministers and two trade union leaders after a crowd of some 3,000 freed him from house arrest, was riddled with so many bullets his body was unrecognizable.
The Pentagon today denied allegations that any U.S. troops on Grenada had been killed by fire from other American forces.
''Contrary to some reports, our research indicates that no U.S. forces in Grenada were killed as a result of friendly fire,'' it said.
The statement appeared less than 24 hours after the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Melvin Price, D-Ill, said he will ask for an investigation into allegations that up to half of the 18 men killed in Grenada died because of fire by other U.S. forces.
A Pentagon official acknowledged that 12 soldiers had been wounded by a bomb dropped ''inadvertently'' on a U.S. position in Grenada by an A-7 fighter-bomber.
Defense Department officials said an 1,800-Marine amphibious task force withdrew from the island Wednesday and were headed for Lebanon to relieve the newly fortified Marine force in Beirut.
The six-ship battle group led by the aircraft carrier Independence, whose A-7 fighter-bombers conducted air strikes against targets on the Caribbean island, also prepared to pull out with the five-ship Marine task force, a Pentagon announcement said.
At the same time, a nine-ship battle group headed by the aircraft carrier America departed Norfolk, Va., for a ''surprise'' exercise in the Caribbean that Pentagon officials said is separate from U.S. operations in Grenada and Central America.