The Grenada Revolution Online

The Grenada Documents


The United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Washington received over five [5] tons of documents collected by US armed forces on Grenada. The DIA arranged to have the documents converted into microfiche form.

Microfiche is a permanent way to store many documents in a reduced form. The fiche, as they are called, are viewed by way of a microfiche reader, enlarging the photos [usually of text] on the fiche. Each fiche is assigned a number. Some sets have multiple fiche. Many fiche with a single document number reproduce different and often widely varying documents.

These are called “The Grenada Documents Collection, ” Record Group 373, National Archives Microfiche T1280, housed at the National Archives II modern facility in College Park, Maryland.

Masses of material, mostly all in English [some Spanish, a few in Russian], provide a huge body of primary source material on the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) during its existence from 13 March 1979 to 25 October 1983. The documents represent the critical mass of the entire body of paperwork produced by the Peoples Revolutionary Government (PRG), generally from 1979 to October 1983 but there are documents from the political activities before the 13 March 1979 Revolution.

The original Grenada documents were "seized," a word used by a National Archives information sheet. They were acquired by US soldiers from government buildings such as Butler House, Fort Frederick and Maurice Bishop's official residence at Mt. Wheldale.

A first-person account by Michael D. Roberts relates information pertinent to one location of documents -

. . . I immediately became concerned about the likelihood of a mass of people storming the headquarters of the country's national security apparatus [at Butler House] and recklessly being privy to highly confidential and secret documents.

After a brief discussion with another senior officer there at the time it was decided that we take all the file cabinets, documents and other sensitive materials to Fort Frederick where they could be afforded 24/7 armed guards - in case Butler's House went the way of Fort Rupert.

. . . loading these cabinets onto a large truck we took them to Fort Frederick. There the items were secured.

Unfortunately for Michael D. Roberts, most all these documents were 'seized', including many investigative reports signed off by Roberts.

Woodward reports that Casey said some secret documents were booby-trapped and had to be defused. Closely reading the National Archives Index of the documents abstract titles, causes one to visualize massive amounts of open file drawers emptied with all contents removed and photographed for microfiche processing, in addition to Confidential, Secret and Top Secret files from Grenada security forces.

Bombed extensively by US forces during late October, 1983, Butler House was once the site of the Santa Maria Hotel, previously the Islander Hotel, thus the medallion in the foreground of the photo below.

Butler House 2002
2002, Butler House bombing remains 1983-2007, photo by Ann Elizabeth Wilder

NOTE: IF 2,000 lbs. equal 1 ton; then 10,000 lbs equals 5 tons. The Heritage Foundation report by Tim Ashby put the weight of the original documents at 35,000 lbs which would equal 17.5 tons. Herbert Romerstein, one editor of the 1984 US Government publication The Grenada Documents, wrote that “tens of thousands documents” from Grenada were taken to the United States; 38,000 pounds.” Dujmovic in The Grenada Documents: Window on Totalitarianism describes the material as “an estimated 500,000 pages.”

The microfiche collection at the National Archives II in College Park, MD, measures 500 shelf feet; not the documents but the microfiche cards alone.

Mark D. Hill, staff reporter of The Berkeley Review, Volume 3, Issue 13 of October 31, 1984, sums up one location where the documents were seized: “Most of the 35,000 documents captured (over 5 tons in weight) were recovered from the home of the Prime Minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop."

Maurice Bishop's Former Mt. Wheldale Residence 2002
2002, photo by Ann Elizabeth Wilder before Hurricane Ivan, 7 September 2004

The original paper documents were signed over by the Defense Intelligence Agency to the U.S. National Archives. When you reach the main page at this site, search on 'Grenada.' A two-volume index was printed with abstracts of approximately 14,000 microfiche of reproductions of the documents - two volumes of cryptic abstracts about what was on each card entered into a limited amount of space. But hold in, some fiche have multiple documents, some have many, many multiple document that extend into fiche cards like fiche 1 of 3, for example. To repeat, these microfiche cards are available for public reference in the National Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland, but the search is a real challenge. Topping off the difficulty is that the resource personnel at the National Archives II Military Section have stored the long boxes of microfiche cards behind the desk resulting in no browsing, no trial and error. One needs to know the microfiche number and ask for it.

An unspecified number of microfiche cards were pulled for security reasons by the Department of Defense and the State Department before and after the publication of the printed index [last date of 5 August 1985]. Some fiche have been removed by the National Archives II, according to their information sheet, "to protect the privacy of individuals." And quite frankly, over the years, some of these portable microfiche cards have "disappeared," despite security at the National Archives in its new facility at College Park, Maryland. Some may be plainly misfiled.

Commentary exists that the documents were changed in some way. Selection or non-selection of documents in reprint book editions may reflect a point-of-view. Two reprint book edition make selections from a document and often have spelling and typographical errors. Rather than changes, there exist documents of which there were two or more versions as issued by the PRG or found in differing PRG files.

For example, a typed version of the "Central Committee Report on First Plenary Session 13-19 July, 1983" is available with a sign-off date of July 21, 1983. A different typed version of the document has a sign-off date of July 22, 1983. The July 21 sign-off copy is typed with handwritten notes by handwriting that looks to be from Leon Cornwall. There are 21 numbered pages in this document. The July 22 sign-off copy is typed with no handwriting and 23 numbered pages. This document, in either form, was reproduced on 12 different numbered microfiche with version July 22 found in the Romerstein book and version July 21 found in Captured Documents, Vol. 2. Go figure practicality over conspiracy. Cornwall takes notes [as he was doing those last meetings]; gets them typed up; adds handwritten notes/corrections. A day later someone types the minutes up neat and clean, so to speak. A comparison shows a basic similarity between the two versions.

Another example is the "Minutes of the Political Bureau Meeting Wednesday 5th January 1983." One version in Captured Documents, Vol. 2 has no other markings than a large A5 hand-lettered on each page; most likely for identification purposes. Another version, the one in the Romerstein book, has many notes, looking to be in the handwriting of Maurice Bishop. Each page has a large A1 hand-lettered mark; most likely for identification purposes. The typing on both documents is identical.

Reproduction or reprinting the material on the microfiche is often clearly readable, but more often there are problems. Unfortunately, scanning the documents is even less successful. The U.S. Government had professional scanning equipment with the documents that made up the Big Blue "Grenada Documents" book. One's home or office scanner often does not do a successful job of reproduction. The text is faintly seen or heavily loaded with ink, every blemish or little spot shows up and the inevitable black borders between the white page of text and the space to the edge of the image is unnecessary.

In scanning, each single image has to be stored as the source, resulting in a morass of database detailing. Often it is an easier execution and read to key the documents into a text format with reference to the fiche identifying number, if there is one. If one presents a scanned document, some skeptics will say the document is forged. In all the years of this webmaster's work with the Grenada Documents, no example of fiddling with the text has come to the fore. What does happen is that the same document may have come from different sources, say from the Prime Minister's office, the same copy sent to someone else, an updated copy of the original is known to exist and many variations on the same base document is found in different files.

Where the original documents are located, as of this writing, is they are in a room at the Police Station on Fort George. Termites, unfortunately, have found them. Termites like not only wood, but the component elements of paper. "Officially," the original documents are supposed to have been returned to Grenada. Rumour at one point put the original Grenada documents in Grenada around August 1985. Since that time, Grenada experienced the damaging Hurricane Ivan, 7 September 2004. The condition and accession of the original Grenada Documents remains obscured.

NARA states the original documents have been returned to Grenada at Return to Grenada of Original Documents. If you don't get the exact paragraph, scroll down to 373.2 General Records - Related Records.

Pertinent information leading to the location of the Grenada Documents is the [Declassified] U.S. State Department Memorandum of 29 March 1984 to Robert C. McFarlane.

Photocopy versions of the Grenada documents were issued. Some of the documents are duplicates as if they came from different departmental files within the People's Revolutionary Government. They are -

(1) Captured Documents, 4 [loose] volumes of photocopied documents. These volumes were published in 1983 and are available at the University of Pittsburgh Library and various University of the West Indies libraries including Marryshow House Library in St. George's. There is also a 1-volume archival set, published also in 1983, at the University of Texas at Austin. Apparently, these documents were issued by the State Department. There are documents in these collections not available elsewhere and it appears they were selectively distributed to priority locations.

(2) The U.S. government publication edited by Herbert Romerstein and Michael Ledeen, Grenada Documents: An Overview and Selection (1984) consisting of photocopies of the Grenada Documents

(3) The Grenada Papers, published by conservative think-tank, the Institute of Contemporary Studies, edited by Paul Seabury and Walter A. McDougall with transcriptions set in type [including numerous copy-editing errors from the retyping]. The editors made the selections and provide commentary.

(4) Brian Crozier's edition, printed in the U.K., The Grenada Documents with transcriptions set in type [including numerous copy-editing errors from the retyping]. The editors made the selection and provide commentary.

(5) A handful of selections [some highly edited] appear in Hydra of Carnage and Grenada and Soviet/Cuban Policy.

An additional gathering of source material is the "Grenada Documents" collection within the Special Library division of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Apparently author Gregory Sandford donated the documents he got from the Defense Intelligence Agency before they were photographed for microfilm and transferred to the National Archives. Sandford reported to Otto Reich via the U.S. State Department for this project. Some documents in the Georgetown collection not available elsewhere. A helpful index is online. Search on "Grenada Documents Georgetown".

Additional studies, referencing original, photocopied, or microfilmed documents, appear in the context or appendix of books. See the Bibliography page.

Note that the widest distribution of the 'Grenada Documents' was in large paperbound book form, Grenada Documents: An Overview and Selection (1984). The editors, Herbert Romerstein and Michael Arthur Ledeen, have career associations with the US Government. The volume is colloquially known as the "Big Light Blue Book".

Romerstein, at the time of issuance of the documents, was with the US Information Agency (USIA). He was a former member of Communist Youth, became disillusioned and spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as professional staff member and chief investigator for several congressional committees, including the House Intelligence Committee and the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Romerstein joined the USIA in 1982 "to expose Soviet disinformation," according to Snyder in Warriors for Disinformation. Romerstein was head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the United States Information Agency from 1983-1989.

Now retired, Romerstein continues to write and lecture on the subject of Soviet espionage. His most recent book, The Venona Secrets , is an account of Soviet World War II espionage against the United States, based largely on documents that he and his wife obtained in Moscow from the Soviet Archives.

Following the issuance of the documents, Michael Ledeen played a central role and was a participant in meetings arranging the arms for hostages exchange involving Oliver North. Ledeen was consultant, national security adviser to the president, 1982-1986; consultant, under secretary of political affairs, U.S. State Department, 1982-1986; consultant, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1982-1986 and special adviser to the Secretary of State, 1981-1982.

The most sensational of these documents was the 13 September 1982, confidential

Line of March for the Party - Part One

Line of March for the Party - Part Two

Line of March for the Party - Part Three

The microfiched documents and their 2-volume index at NARA provide much information, but little practical search aids. The fiche are numbered starting with "DSI-83-C-[six digit number]." Often there is an additional six-digit number known as the CAJIT number.

An online index of the Grenada Documents became available in early 2003 for researchers, but this web administrator is unsuccessful in rediscovering it. You will be looking for "Index to the Intelligence Reports on Seized Grenada Documents 22 November 1983 - 7 February 1985" (which covers the time period of 11 July 1919 - 31 December 1984). The search process is unsatisfying and disheartening and unsuccessful as of 2010.

Take a trip to the National Archives II at College Park, Maryland. The indexes are available to view in hard copy. Your first run-through will be spent receiving a Researcher's Card. You can go through the routines of NARA and finally enter the Microfilm Room on the 4th floor. Also check RG 242 Seized Documents from Grenada by requesting boxes in the Research Room on the 2nd Floor. Inquire about purchasing a copy of each fiche on CD/DVD for a custom, per order amount. Microfiche [card] duplicates for a fee are no longer available. There is staff in both places to help you with your search into what Thorndike has termed -

"an unprecedented opportunity to examine and dissect the problems of a vanguard Marxist-Leninist party attempting a noncapitalist direction of development towards socialism in the West Indian context."

Don't know if you want to " . . . dissect the problems . . . ," but the trip to the US National Archives II is worth it.

Next: NSDD 112 re: the Grenada Documents

Also: Disposition Memo re: the Grenada Documents

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