Remembering the fallen Rangers
Urgent Fury a small battle in Grenada October 25th, 1983

 

Urgent Fury Ranger jeep, Tribute 1/75 Ranger Battalion

By Brian C. Ivers

I’m not a tough guy. I am a middle-aged trial attorney that sits at a desk all day drafting legal documents and speaking to clients on the phone. At night I go home to my wonderful family and have dinner. My life is like so many others, comfortable, quiet, and somewhat mundane. But from 1982 to 1985, from the age of nineteen until I reached the age of twenty-one, I had the honor of hanging out with some of the toughest guys who ever walked the face of the planet. At that time, I was an Airborne Ranger in 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Ranger Battalion - 75th Infantry. Recently, I traveled to Savannah, Georgia, to gather with my old comrades and attend a memorial service commemorating the 25th anniversary of Operation Urgent Fury – better known as the invasion of the Island of Grenada.

Over the years, when I tell people I was involved in the invasion of Grenada, I am usually greeted with laughter or gentle ribbing about how that was not really “combat.” I’ve never understood this reaction from people. It is founded upon ignorance and due in part to the movie Heartbreak Ridge that purports to be about Grenada – it is not. In fact, there literally is nothing in that movie remotely similar to Operation Urgent Fury.

On October 25, 1983, approximately 600 Rangers from two Ranger Battalions parachuted onto Point Salines Airfield to rescue American medical students who were being threatened by the Marxist regime that had taken over the island government. This wasn’t just any parachute drop. We jumped at five hundred feet under a hail of bullets coming from six anti-aircraft guns and small arms weapons being fired by Cuban and Grenadian soldiers located on the hills north of the runway. I was on the second C-130 and as I jumped from the plane, I saw a beautiful morning sky filled with tracer rounds coming from the hills. I learned recently from a Marine named Joe Muccia, who is writing a book on the operation, that after the invasion, one of the C-130 airplanes had 42 bullet holes in its fuselage.

The runway at Point Salines was under construction at the time of the invasion. There were bulldozers and heavy equipment scattered on the runway and the purpose of the parachute drop was to clear this equipment and secure the hills to the north of the runway, making it safe for C-130s filled with Ranger jeep and motorcycle teams to land and help with the rescue.

The Ranger Company I was with, Alpha Company, was commanded by a young Captain named John Abizaid. Alpha Company took approximately one hundred and fifty Rangers to Grenada. Abizaid is now Four-Star General Abizaid who succeeded General Tommy Franks as commander of U.S. Central Command.

Alpha Company had five Rangers killed and six wounded, and consequently suffered more casualties than any other company in 1st Battalion during the invasion. My platoon’s mission was to secure the True Blue Medical Campus that was located at the east end of the runway. We were to secure the campus, and protect the students.

Urgent Fury Ranger Yamane, Tribute 1/75 Ranger Battalion Mark Yamane, an M60 machine gunner in my platoon was one of the first to die. Shortly after Yamane parachuted onto the airfield, he was shot in the head while trying to assist in clearing vehicles from the runway. I saw Yamane just before he died. I watched as he braved intense small arms fire coming from the hills, to capture a flatbed truck being operated by two enemy soldiers carrying AK-47 assault rifles who had driven onto the runway to engage the Rangers landing on the airfield. My friend, Ron Tucker was his assistant gunner. When Yamane was shot, Tucker tried desperately to revive him. When he could not, Tucker grabbed the M60 and assaulted the hill alone.

The weapons fire from the hills north of the runway was devastating to the Rangers dropping onto the airfield. It became imperative that we take this high ground, or continue to be shot to pieces. This was all too apparent when Tony Davis from Alpha Company attempted to cross the runway and was shot in the neck. Tony was evacuated by Ranger Paul Bell, still alive, but remains paralyzed from the neck down as a result of his injuries.

My team leader Staff Sergeant Manous Boles began leading an assault up the hill to try and capture the anti-aircraft guns and enemy soldiers who were firing upon us. Sergeant Boles drove a bulldozer up the hill followed by other Rangers. He lifted the bulldozer blade to protect the soldiers moving behind him, but Sergeant Boles remained exposed to enemy fire. The Rangers moved forward, taking the hill by force, saving many American lives in the process. Sergeant Boles was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. Many months after the invasion, Sergeant Boles committed suicide after learning his wife was leaving him.

Urgent Fury Ranger survivor, Timothy Romick Arlington A Ranger jeep team from Alpha Company, consisting of Randy Cline, Mark Rademacher, Tim Romick, and Russell Robinson, were given the task of setting up a blocking position on a road east of the runway to keep enemy soldiers from making it to the airfield where the medical students were located. I watched from my position as their jeep traveled through enemy fire disappearing down a dirt road to set up the blocking position. They were approximately five hundred yards away from my position when the enemy ambushed them. I could not see what was happening, but I heard the entire encounter. For fifteen minutes I listened to explosion after explosion and constant rifle and machinegun fire as those men fought fiercely for their lives. Only one man from that jeep team escaped with his life. Tim Romick, who despite being shot several times, assaulted the enemy, captured a Soviet-made machinegun, and returned to friendly lines. We will never know exactly what happened during the firefight involving the jeep team. The story died with Tim Romick who has since passed away.

My platoon leader, Lieutenant Sydney Farrar, was shot several times in the chest during a firefight while leading a patrol to find if there were survivors from the ambushed jeep team. Kelly Venden of 2nd Platoon went into harms way to save Farrar and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor in doing so. After that, my roommate, Eddie Payne, helped place Farrar on the front of a jeep and drove him to the medical campus where the medical students were located. Farrar was in bad shape and appeared to be unconscious and possibly dead. While driving down a hill to the campus, Eddie hit a bump that caused the entire jeep to lurch wildly. Farrar, without opening his eyes, said, “why don’t you go back to the top of the hill because there was at least one bump you didn’t hit.” Once at the medical campus, a surgical nurse, realizing that Farrar was going to die if she did not do something quickly, opened his chest, and without any anesthesia whatsoever, operated on Farrar. She saved his life.

During the afternoon of the invasion, three Soviet-made armored personnel carriers filled with enemy soldiers assaulted my platoon’s position, trying to break through to attack the Rangers on the runway. During a firefight that last approximately 20 minutes, we halted their advance, and destroyed two of the vehicles. A howitzer round from an AC-130 gunship destroyed the third vehicle as it tried to escape.

Like so many other Rangers, I have so many stories about that day I could tell; like the story about Jim Keen, from my Company, who I helped carry to the medical campus for treatment. Keen had been shot in the stomach and continuously cried out in pain, calling for his wife; or how I found Ron Tucker at the end of the day, sitting on the ground next to Yamane’s bloody machinegun. Tucker was weeping uncontrollably, inconsolable because he had watched a friend die earlier that day.

Meeting my Second Platoon comrades twenty-five years after the invasion was one of the most rewarding days of my life. From 1982 to 1985 these men were almost never out of my sight. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we worked, ate, slept, and spent all of our free time together. Nothing could ever compare to it. Many of these men have spent the last twenty-five years in and out of combat. Their journey started with Grenada and continued on with the invasion of Panama, both wars with Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan. We are all so proud to have served and fought for our country.

Urgent Fury Rangers, Brian Ivers left and Tom Davis, truck ride back from airstrip after Grenada 1983 On October 25, 2008, we sat together at the Ranger memorial service at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, and listened as the roll call was read. The names of our fallen friends who died so long ago were called, but none of them were there to answer, none of them will ever report for duty again. Yamane’s name was the last to be read. It was an emotional moment for all of us. I have a picture from 1983 of me next to Yamane during a deployment to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. As they read Yamane’s name, I pictured him, as he was then, young and strong, with his whole life ahead of him. After the ceremony was over, I looked into the eyes of my friends who are today all middle-aged men. I thought how strange it was that Yamane would always be young in our minds. Unlike us, Yamane will never age, and he can only live on in the memories of his friends and family.

In all, nineteen American soldiers gave their lives on that island. Their sacrifice and heroism should never be forgotten.

*Pictures are of 1/75 Aco 3rd Plt gun jeep, SP4 Ranger Mark Yamane, Timothy Romick resting at Arlington Cemetery
** Picture of Brian Ivers left and Tom Davis, on truck ride back from airstrip after Grenada 1983