January 31, This day during the Gulf War

January 31, 1989 – Operation Just Cause, was the invasion of Panama by the United States in December 1989. It occurred during the administration of U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama by January 1, 2000. During the invasion, de facto Panamanian leader, general, and dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed, president-elect Guillermo Endara sworn into office, and the Panamanian Defense Force dissolved. The U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marines participated in Operation Just Cause. Ground forces consisted of combat elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 7th Infantry Division (Light), the 75th Ranger Regiment, a Joint Special Operations Task Force, elements of the 5th Infantry Division (1st Battalion, 61st US Infantry and 4th Battalion, 6th United States Infantry (replacing 1\61st in September 1989)), 1138th Military Police Company of the Missouri Army National Guard, 193rd Infantry Brigade, 508th Infantry Regiment, the 59th Engineer Co. (Sappers), Marine Security Forces Battalion Panama, and elements from the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams, 2nd Armored Infantry Battalion, and 2nd Marine Logistics Group 39th Combat Engineer Btn. Charlie Co. The military incursion into Panama began on December 20, 1989, at 1:00 a.m. local time. The operation involved 27,684 U.S. troops and over 300 aircraft, including C-130 Hercules tactical transports flown by the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing (which was equipped with the Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System or AWADS) and 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, AC-130 Spectre gunship, OA-37B Dragonfly observation and attack aircraft, C-141 Starlifter strategic transports, F-117A Nighthawk stealth aircraft flown by the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The invasion of Panama was the first combat deployment for the AH-64, the HMMWV, and the F-117A. Panamanian radar units were jammed by two EF-111As of the 390th ECS, 366th TFW. These aircraft were deployed against the 46,000 members of the PDF. The operation began with an assault of strategic installations, such as the civilian Punta Paitilla Airport in Panama City and a PDF garrison and airfield at Rio Hato, where Noriega also maintained a residence. U.S. Navy SEALs destroyed Noriega’s private jet and a Panamanian gunboat. A Panamanian ambush killed four SEALs and wounded nine. Other military command centers throughout the country were also attacked. The attack on the central headquarters of the PDF (referred to as La Comandancia) touched off several fires, one of which destroyed most of the adjoining and heavily populated El Chorrillo neighborhood in downtown Panama City. During the firefight at the Comandancia, the PDF downed two special operations helicopters and forced one OH-6 Little Bird to crash-land in the Panama Canal. Fort Amador was secured by elements of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and 59th Engineer Company (sappers) in a nighttime air assault which secured the fort in the early hours of December 20. Fort Amador was a key position because of its relationship to the large oil farms adjacent to the canal, the Bridge of the Americas over the canal, and the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Key command and control elements of the PDF were stationed there. C co. 1st Battalion (Airborne) 508th PIR was assigned the task of securing La Commandancia. Furthermore, Fort Amador had a large U.S. housing district that needed to be secured to prevent the PDF from taking U.S. citizens as hostages. This position also protected the left flank of the attack on the Comadancia and the securing of the El Chorrillos neighbourhood, guarded by Dignity Battalions, Noriega supporters that the U.S. forces sometimes referred to as “Dingbats”. A few hours after the invasion began, Guillermo Endara was sworn in at Fort Clayton. It is generally agreed that Endara would have been the victor in the presidential election which had been scheduled earlier that year. A platoon from the 1138th Military Police Company, Missouri Army National Guard, which was on a routine 2 week rotation to Panama was called upon to set up a detainee camp on Empire Range to handle the mass of civilian and military detainees. This unit made history by being the first National Guard unit called into active service since the Vietnam War.  was an operation launched by Navy SEALs to prevent Noriega’s escape. They sank Noriega’s boat and destroyed his jet, at a cost of four killed and nine wounded. Military operations continued for several weeks, mainly against military units of the Panamanian army. Noriega remained at large for several days, but realizing he had few options in the face of a massive manhunt and a $1 million reward for his capture, he obtained refuge in the Vatican diplomatic mission in Panama City. The U.S. military’s psychological pressure on him and diplomatic pressure on the Vatican mission, however, was relentless, as was the playing of loud rock-and-roll music day and night in a densely populated area. The report of the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff maintains that the music was used principally to prevent parabolic microphones from being used to eavesdrop on negotiations, and not as a psychological weapon based around Noriega’s supposed loathing of rock music. Noriega finally surrendered to the U.S. military on January 3, 1990. He was immediately put on an MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft and flown to the U.S. While some U.S. Marine units continued their deployment, others that had been deployed since October 3, 1989, began returning on January 12, 1990. Along with units of the 193rd Infantry Brigade, 508th Airborne Infantry, and 59th Engineer Company (Sapper) 16th Military Police Brigade, these units continued “police” patrols throughout Panama City and areas west of the canal to restore law and order and support the newly installed government (under the moniker “Operation Promote Liberty”). Two of these units were 5th BN 21st Infantry (Light) of the 7th Light Infantry Division and the 555th Military Police, who had been in the country since December 20, 1989. Another was Kilo Co. 3BN 6MAR, initially deployed on October 1, 1989, and remaining deployed in the jungles surrounding Howard Air Force Base until April 1990. All three of these units fought the PDF and then trained the Panamanian Police Force, composed of former PDF members.

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