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The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983


On 25 October 1983 U.S. land, sea, and air forces, operating in conjunction with ground force contingents from several Caribbean countries, landed on the island nation of Grenada in the eastern Caribbean. Operation URGENT FURY, the code name for this intervention, marked the U.S. Army’s first commitment to combat since the close of the Vietnam war. In point of fact, the amount of fighting was slight in comparison with other conflicts during the twentieth century, lacking both great intensity and long duration. The logistical effort required to move and sustain two ranger battalions and two brigades of the 82d Airborne Division, in contrast, was considerable and not without difficulty. The genesis, evolution, and eventual solution of the logistical problems, and especially their impact on combat operations on the island, make a fascinating story in their own right. These facets are particularly pertinent because of the likelihood that the Army will face other short-notice contingencies in the future in which the same or similar circumstances prevail. The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983, provides an account of how Army logistics affected ground operations during the Grenada intervention and, in turn, how combat influenced logistical performance. Noteworthy is the emphasis on the role of individuals and the decisions they made based on the necessarily incomplete and sometimes misleading information available at the time during an unexpected and short-notice contingency operation. The narrative ranges from the meetings of the National Security Council, where the president grappled with the question of whether to send in troops, to the jungle environs of Grenada, where a sergeant in combat coped successfully with a Cuban ambush even though he and his men were handicapped by a lack of hand grenades. The considerations that influenced these decisions and others like them are discussed at all three levels of war—strategic, operational, and tactical. Most important, the author tells the story of the Army’s operations and its logistical effort in Grenada from the joint perspective. He covers not only planning and decision-making by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Atlantic Command, and Joint Special Operations Command but also coordination and communications, or lack thereof, between the service contingents in the area of operations. The result is a fascinating account of a complex event that provides insight into the myriad issues the Army encountered and will continue to face in future contingency operations. The author puts forth his conclusions on this brief but important campaign not as authoritative pronouncements but as a springboard for further professional reflection and discussion. Without question, for Army leaders, commanders, and especially logisticians, they offer instructive parallels and trenchant observations pertinent in today’s complicated world.

680 pages


Categories: All Books, Cold War, Miscellaneous, U.S. Army


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