A group of seven journalists, including reporters for four American news organizations who arrived here Tuesday morning as U.S. invasion forces landed, tried unsuccessfully until today to report what was happening on Grenada.
We had left Barbados Monday by chartered aircraft to Union Island, north of Grenada, from which we traveled by boat to Carriacou, another island that is a Grenadan possession. We arrived on a separately rented small boat in Grenada just after the landing.
Initially detained by Grenadan forces, by the time we reached telephone and telex facilities in the town, the lines were dead.
It was early yesterday when, while wandering through the relatively peaceful Grenadan capital, three of us--myself and correspondents for The Miami Herald and Newsday--made our first contact with U.S. troops. By 2 p.m., a good-hearted marine colonel who had listened to our pleas to allow us to use American communications facilities to reach our home offices, arranged to have us flown to the USS Guam offshore on one of a number of helicopters ferrying back and forth to his position.
But by 10 a.m. today, we three reporters, who had been joined by a British colleague in the meantime, were being helicoptered back to the same landing zone we had left 18 hours earlier--still without getting our stories back to our newspapers.
The intervening time was a series of frustrations, pleasant conversations with sailors and marines aboard this helicopter carrier and repeated pleas to be allowed to use shipboard communications or to be transported to Barbados to use commercial telephone service from there. It was also a period in which we were constantly watched, even as we slept in crewmen's bunks with a sailor detailed to stay awake sitting beside us.
Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III--Second Fleet commander running the Grenada operation--first dispatched Cmdr. Tony Hilton to announce that the task force's communications were so busy with military traffic that we reporters had no chance of using them. After a request, he said he would do his best to get a message to at least one newspaper with a list of those of us who had landed on Grenada--including we four and the two reporters and one photographer who remained on the island.
Disappointed, we then suggested that we be carried on one of the frequent military flights between Grenada and Barbados to use the telephone there. Hilton, the fleet public affairs officer, said he would do his best.
A short while later, we were led aboard a helicopter and flown down from Point Salines, the Grenadan peninsula where a Cuban-built airport was being used by the U.S. invasion force. But just before the helicopter was due to take off from the busy flight deck, we were ordered to get out and were led back inside the ship to the commodore's wardroom.
Metcalf then came to greet us, apologizing for the switch and explaining it was because he was reluctant to risk sending civilians into a high-risk area. It was not clear whether he meant Grenada as a whole, where we had just spent two days, or Point Salines specifically, where the U.S. military was landing and taking off regularly.
In any case, we said we needed to file our dispatches and wanted to use shipboard facilities--the reason we had first come aboard--or go to Barbados. Metcalf replied he had to have the request cleared with Washington. By the time darkness fell, when Hilton said civilians could no longer fly on helicopters, the clearance had not yet come and dinner was served.
Reinforced by fried ham and a promise that we would be flown to Point Salines for a flight to Barbados "at the first light," we bunked down for the night. Up at dawn, we were told we would depart at 8:30 a.m. At 7:30 a.m., we were told we would leave at 10 a.m.
At 9:30 a.m., Metcalf appeared again to say we reporters could accompany marines on to Fort Frederick, where he said "an operation" was due to take place against remaining Grenadan defenders, then fly to Barbados. Or, we could fly immediately to Barbados.
Seeking to complete our stories, we opted to accompany the Marines in the hope of catching a later flight to Barbados. On arrival back in Grenada, however, we met the Time magazine correspondent we had left on the island along with a photographer and another British reporter, who told us the fort had been undefended since the previous afternoon. At this point, we insisted on continuing to Barbados, where we arrived shortly after 2 p.m. today.
The Washington Post made repeated inquiries for information about the whereabouts of the journalists--who had last been heard from when they departed Barbados Monday--throughout Tuesday and Wednesday to the Pentagon, State Department and White House.
At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver told Post publisher Donald E. Graham, in response to a request from Graham for any information U.S. forces might have about Cody's whereabouts and safety, that the four newsmen were safe, aboard the Guam.
[Half an hour later, White House Director of Communications David Gergen telephoned The Post to say that he had been asked by other news organizations if a Post reporter was missing in Grenada.]
[At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday--eight hours after the journalists had arrived on the Guam--Col. Robert O'Brien of the Pentagon said in response to inquiries from The Post that the newsmen had been evacuated on Tuesday afternoon by the local commander for their own safety because they had wandered into a fire fight. A sketchier version of this erroneous report also had been relayed to a Post reporter by Deaver earlier in the day and was repeated to another Post reporter by a senior Pentagon offical at midday yesterday. During this time the correspondents were not permitted to have direct communications with their offices.]