"Fellow citizens, last night I ordered U.S.
military forces to Panama. . . . Our goals
have been to safeguard American lives, to
defend democracy in Panama, to combat drug
trafficking, and protect the integrity of
the Panama Canal Treaty. Many attempts have
been made to resolve the crisis and all were
rejected by the dictator of Panama, General
Manuel A. Noriega, an indicted drug
Last Friday Noriega declared his
military dictatorship to be in a state of
war with the United States and publicly
threatened the lives of Americans in
Panama. The very next day an unarmed
American serviceman was shot and killed,
another wounded, and a third, arrested and
brutally beaten. That was enough.
As president I have no higher
obligation than to safeguard the lives of
American citizens in Panama and to bring
General Noriega to justice in the United
States. . ."
President George H. W. Bush,
December 20th, 1989
Addressing the nation on U.S. military
actions in Panama
President George Bush ordered the invasion of Panama
in December 1989.
military forces had four objectives:
protect US citizens
support democratic initiatives in Panama
ensure safe operation of the Panama Canal
apprehend general Noriega and bring him to justice
General Manuel A. Noriega, military
dictator of Panama
Manuel Noriega was Panama's military leader from
1983 to 1989. He had been a paid CIA informant and
was also on the United States Army's payroll from
1955 to 1986.
accusations of illegal activities surfaced in the
early 1980s. In 1988, he was indicted on drug-
trafficking and racketeering charges in the U.S.
Relations with the U.S. further soured when Noriega
annulled Panama's presidential election in May 1989
and declared himself head of state.
early morning hours of December 20, 1989, the United
States military became involved in its largest
combat operation since the end of the Vietnam War by
invading the Republic of Panama.
Rangers and 82d Airborne paratroopers spearheaded
the invasion with the biggest combat jump since
World War II. They were followed by elements of the
7th Infantry Division, pictured below.
Torrijos/Tocumen Airport, Panama
Twenty-seven targets around Panama City and the
Panama Canal were chosen for simultaneous attack by
US forces to weaken the Panamanian defenses.
attacked the Panamanian Defensive Forces (PDF) that
had military units in various locations, as well as
the Panamanian Air Forces, Marines and police units.
also targeted two prisons where Americans were being
held, as well as bridges, dams, locks and
airfields. The TV antenna in Panama City was
destroyed in order to cease Noriega propaganda, and
to broadcast American intentions to the public.
the two airports were secured, Army transportation
A/DACG detachments began receiving troops and
supplies, allowing the combat troops to begin
securing their targets.
Above, 7th Infantry
Division soldiers secured the 2nd
Panamanian Defense Forces Infantry
Company at the Torrijos/Tocumen airport.
headquarters of the 6th
Infantry Company of the PDF, secured by
the 82nd Airborne.
Left, 7th Division
soldiers taking La Commandancia, a
primary target and headquarters for
General Noriega in Panama City.
Operation Just Cause, the 403rd Cargo Transfer
Company from Fort Bragg, was responsible for setting
up two Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Groups (A/DACGs)
within the theater. One was at Omar Torrijos/Tacumen
International Airport and the other at Howard Air
403rd had the distinction of being the first
transportation company to execute a combat jump.
* * *
“Moment of Truth,”
Al Sprague, oil, Panama, 1989
Airborne soldier of the 403rd Transportation
Company, 82nd Airborne Division.
lieutenant stands at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, NC
ready to board a C-141 aircraft bound for Panama.
The 403rd became the first Transportation Company to
participate in a combat jump when they leapt into
the night with the 82nd in the opening minutes of
Operation Just Cause.
mission was to establish airfield operations at
Torrijos and Howard airbases.
airborne soldier wears over 75 pounds of equipment.
equipment includes the main and reserve parachutes,
parachutist Kevlar helmet, rucksack with extra gear,
and Load Bearing Equipment.
airborne soldier also carries an M-16 rifle encased
in a padded case made to protect weapons from the
rigors of jumping.
* * *
403rd secured the runway and quickly prepared for
incoming troop transports. Fifteen soldiers from
the 551st Cargo Transfer Company, Fort Eustis,
assisted in A/DACG operations at Howard AFB.
A soldier of the 1st COSCOM
transportation A/DACG detachments of 8 to 9 soldiers
were directly responsible for receiving personnel,
supplies, and equipment. Most of the forces had to
come from the U.S. Critical to the success was the
capture of the two airfields capable of landing
1097th TRANSPORTATION COMPANY
1097th Transportation Company operated LCM-8 "Mike"
boats in Panama, and performed several important
missions in Operation JUST CAUSE.
One mission of the 1097th
was to support and defend the Panama
all phases of Operation JUST CAUSE, the vessels of
the 1097th provided a major link between the
Atlantic and the Pacific oceans via the Panama
included insertion and extraction of soldiers and
equipment, and transportation of Class 1, III and V
resupply for military operations.
The 1097th LCMs provided bridging
over the Gatun Locks where the bridge
was too small to accommodate the large
1097th vessels transported all enemy prisoners of
war and detainees from collection points on the
Atlantic side to the main collection point on the
A 1097th LCU exits the
Pedro Miguel locks.
LCU-1699 transits the Panama Canal,
heading for the Atlantic.
Throughout the entire operation, the 1097th
transported over 1,800 troops, over 980 tons of
cargo and 848 prisoners throughout the canal.
1097th Transportation Company was directly
involved in three combat assaults -- two
beach assaults at Gamboa and one vessel
assault in Limon Bay.
An LCM-8 Mike boat beached
at Bocas del Toros.
The 1097th’s waterborne
range on Lake Gamboa.
addition 1097th vessels teamed with the Navy Special
Boat Unit and Navy Seal operations to provide
security in Limon Bay and Colon Harbor. The
performance of this joint operation between Army and
Navy elements was smooth and well executed.
SPECIFICATIONS for 1097th VESSELS
Emergency dry-dock for rudder repairs
takes place in locks on the Pacific
Delivery of LCU-1668 to Panama via
the USAV McHENRY
Operation JUST CAUSE was the largest single
contingency operation since World War II. It
focused on a combination of rapid deployment and
precise use of deployed troops and in-country
of the 26,000 U.S. troops that served in Operation
Just Cause were already stationed in Panama. The
Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) numbered about
14,000, most of whom were willing to surrender. Of
that number, 4,000 were well-trained combat troops,
and they put up stiff resistance.
Noriega surrendered to U.S. authorities in January
1990, and is now serving a 40-year sentence in
Florida for drug trafficking.
Some of the several
million dollars in suspected drug money
seized at Noriega’s headquarters in the
Commandancia. The packing bore the address
“General Manuel Antonio Noriega.”
Fighting ended on
24 December and troop withdrawal began on
the 27th. Official hostilities ended 31