30th Anniversary of Operation Just Cause

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30th Anniversary of Operation Just Cause

In some ways I think the US Invasion of Panama, "Operation Just Cause," is a somewhat "forgotten war" with some viewing it as a sort of training OP in the run up to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  I remember it fairly acutely because I was at The Citadel in Charleston, SC and we heard tons of planes taking off from Charleston AFB and then we heard it on the news.   I also listened to a ton of stories after the fact from my best friend who served in the "Moatengators" of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry in Fort Kobbe in Panama.  (They used to jump in Panama with a little alligator/cayman.)

This post will be fairly heavy on video so wanted to set the stage with the sort of generic overview from History.com, December 20, 1989:

The United States invades Panama in an attempt to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges and was accused of suppressing democracy in Panama and endangering U.S. nationals. Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) were promptly crushed, forcing the dictator to seek asylum with the Vatican anuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on January 3, 1990...

Tensions between Americans in the Panama Canal Zone and Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces grew, and in 1989 the dictator annulled a presidential election that would have made Guillermo Endara president. President George H. Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to the Panama Canal Zone, and on December 16 an off-duty U.S. Marine was shot to death at a PDF roadblock. The next day, President Bush authorized “Operation Just Cause”–the U.S. invasion of Panama to overthrow Noriega.

On December 20, 9,000 U.S. troops joined the 12,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama and were met with scattered resistance from the PDF. By December 24, the PDF was crushed, and the United States held most of the country. Endara was made president by U.S. forces, and he ordered the PDF dissolved. On January 3, Noriega was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents.

The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law.

I'm going to give you three videos here: a documentary "Secrets of War", some contemporaneous television with young Brit Hume and Katie Couric cameos, and some actual footage from a Combat Camera crew that was with the force.

The 23 men killed in action for Operation Just Cause:

U.S. Army Casualties

 Staff Sgt. Larry Barnard              3/75th Rangers Hallstead, Pa.

 Pfc. Roy D. Brown Jr.                     3/75th Rangers Buena Park, Calif.

 Pvt. Vance T. Coats                        82nd Airborne Division Great Falls, Mont.

 Spec. Jerry S. Daves                       82nd Airborne. Division North Carolina

 Sgt. Michael A. Deblois                  82nd Airborne Division Dubach, La.

 Pfc. Martin D. Denson                   82nd Airborne Division Abilene, Texas

 Pfc. William D. Gibbs                      7th Infantry Division. Marina, Calif.

 Spec. Phillip S. Lear                         2/75th Rangers Westminster, S.C.

 Spec. Alejandro Manriquelozano  82nd Airborne Division Lauderhill, Fla.

 Pfc. James W. Markwell                 1/75th Rangers Cincinnati, Ohio

 Cpl. Ivan M. Perez                          5th Infantry Division Pawtucket, R.I.

 Pfc. John M. Price                           2/75th Rangers Conover, Wis.

 Pfc. Scott L. Roth                             89th Military Police Brigade Killeen, Texas

 Pvt. Kenneth D. Scott                    5th Infantry Division Princeton, W.Va.

 1st Lt. John R. Hunter                    160th Aviation Victor, Montana

 CWO2 Wilson B. Owens                 160th Aviation Myrtle Beach, S.C.

 CWO2 Andrew P. Porter                   7th Infantry Division Saint Clair, Mich.

 Pvt. James A. Taber Jr.                     82nd Airborne Division Montrose, Colo.


U.S. Navy Casualties

 Lt. j.g. John Connors                      Special Warfare Group Arlington, Maine

 BM1 Chris Tilghman                       Special Warfare Group Kailua, Hawaii

 ENC Donald McFaul                        Special Warfare Group Deschutes, Ore.

 TM2 Issac G. Rodriguez III              Special Warfare Group Missouri City, Texas


U.S. Marine Corps Casualties

 Cpl. Garreth C. Isaak                      2nd Marine Division Greenville, S.C.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.