LONDON (AP) — So sorry we kept it a secret. That was Ronald Reagan's message to Margaret Thatcher when U.S. troops invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983 without telling the British leader first.
The American president called the British prime minister as the invasion unfolded to apologize for having kept her in the dark, saying "I'm sorry for any embarrassment we caused you."
The issue was particularly sensitive because Grenada was part of the British Commonwealth and recognized Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
Reagan told Thatcher the total secrecy was needed because of fears that a leak — on the American side, not the British one — might endanger the military operation.
Thatcher had complained about the invasion, saying it would be seen as Western meddling in the internal affairs of an independent country; Reagan seemed anxious to mend fences with one of the U.S.'s closest allies.
In a secret White House tape made public Monday after a Freedom of Information Act request, the contrite president tried to joke his way out of the spat.
"If I were there, Margaret, I'd throw my hat in the door before I came in," he said.
Thatcher told him there was no need for him to be so cautious, but warned him that the invasion would be tricky.
Reagan goes out of his way during the conversation to assure Thatcher that he had not shut her out over fears the British would leak the information.
In the end, the Reagan's charm seems to have carried the day. Thatcher thanked him profusely for the call, and asked about his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan.
"Give her my love," said Thatcher before cutting off the call so she could return to what she said was a difficult House of Commons debate.