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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: British bayonet in Grenada is good story

  • I wrote last month about the start of Operation Urgent Fury, one of the stranger U.S. military operations.
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  • I wrote last month about the start of Operation Urgent Fury, one of the stranger U.S. military operations. U.S. troops and those from six other countries landed on the tiny island of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea region following the arrest and summary execution of the elected prime minister.
    The operation didn't take long, as it was against a paramilitary force, some Cuban advisors, and a few Soviet advisors. Once the good guys landed, it was pretty much all over.
    The excursion ended on this date in 1983. After a brief occupation period to make sure all would be well when the good guys left, they all left. The whole thing must have been a success as there has not been a Grenada II, nor a 2nd Grenada.
    Some friends I'd made at Fort Leavenworth took part in the brief operation, and I met a few CGSC students in later years who had been there. I have to smile every time I recall meeting one infantry major with his two war relics from Grenada.
    During the brief encounter our psychological operations troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., were busy designing and printing propaganda leaflets that the Air Force dropped on the populace. Propaganda leaflets have been used for many years in many wars.
    One leaflet we dropped had drawings of machineguns, rifles, pistols, and a Soviet AK-47 bayonet, with words telling the islanders that if they handed over such weapons U.S. soldiers would pay money for them.
    The major, who at the time was the executive officer of an infantry company, said that after his unit had been on the island a few days a toothless old man came to their area with something wrapped in a dirty rag. When sentries saw him they were suspicious of what was hidden in the rag, so they blindfolded him and took him to the company commander.
    He produced a U.S. leaflet showing Soviet weapons and the words that our troops would give money for them. When he unwrapped what he had in the rag, all who saw the contents broke into laughter.
    The British had colonized Grenada a few hundred years ago, and British soldiers had been stationed on the island for many years. What the old islander had in the rag were two ancient British bayonets, one the angular style from the late 18th century, the other a 1918 dated WW I relic.
    Both had obviously been buried for many years, and were covered with rust and dirt. They were of no value to the U.S., and the captain tried to explain that to the old man. But he kept pointing to the airborne dropped leaflet that showed a modern Soviet bayonet, and holding out his hand for money for his treasures.
    Page 2 of 2 - The major said the more the old man asked for money for what he'd brought in, the more upset the captain, who had a few more pressing duties running an infantry company in a combat zone, got.
    Finally the captain and lieutenant solved the problem. The captain had a few dollars in local currency, as did the lieutenant. The captain offered the old man the few dollars they put together and said that would be his reward.
    Fortunately for the captain the leaflet had not specified an amount of money that would be given for the turn-in of weapons, so the old man had no idea how much to expect. To him a few bucks for something he'd dug up years ago seemed reasonable enough, so he took it and left.
    Of course he had to leave the bayonets. The lieutenant asked the captain if he'd like one as a souvenir, particularly since he'd paid for it. The captain said no way, so the lieutenant kept both.
    I told him where they would have a good home, and be displayed at future historical displays in the area, but he said telling the story about them was worth more than what he'd paid. Bummer.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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