DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
UNITED STATES ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview
7th HOWITZER SECTION, BATTERY D, 320th FIELD ARTILLERY
Sergeant Javier A. Brown
Sergeant Anthony F. Bane
Specialist James B. Appleman
Specialist David S. Dishman
Interview conducted 9 January 1990 at Building 802, Fort Kobbe, Panama
Interviewer: MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr.
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 002
MAJ WRIGHT: [This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being] conducted 8 January 1990 in building 802 at Fort Kobbe, Panama. The interview subjects are members of Battery D, 320th Field Artillery.
And at this time I would like for you to give me your name, rank and serial number, and then your duty position within Battery D.
SGT BROWN: My name is Sergeant Javier A. Brown, ***-**-****. Assistant Chief for the 7th Howitzer that fired at [Fort] Amador.
SGT BANE: My name is Sergeant Anthony Frank Bane, ***-**-****. I was the Gunner for the 7th Howitzer Section.
SPC APPLEMAN: My name is Specialist James B. Appleman, ***-**-****. I was the Assistant Gunner for the 7th Howitzer Section.
SPC DISHMAN: My name is Specialist David S. Dishman. My social security number is ***-**-****, and I was the Number One Man for the 7th Howitzer Section.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. The 7th Howitzer Section in a six-howitzer firing battery means that you guys were pulled together specially? Am I correct?
MULTIPLE VOICES: Yes. Yes, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: When were you pulled together to start working out as a team?
SGT BROWN: We were pulled together just about two months prior ... two months prior to the Operation JUST CAUSE.
MAJ WRIGHT: And started a training sequence at that time? Working on what kind of missions?
SGT BROWN: We were working on the training site down at Empire Range with simulated targets where we had to fire at direct fire for in a practice mode, along with major rehearsals with the 1st of the 508th Infantry Battalion [1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry].
MAJ WRIGHT: So you did start training in conjunction with the 1st of the 508th in addition to doing your artillery-specific training?
SGT BROWN: Yes, we did.
MAJ WRIGHT: You practiced in a direct fire mode. Did anybody tell you at that time why you were doing it?
SPC DISHMAN: We had an idea.
MAJ WRIGHT: Pretty good idea?
SPC DISHMAN: Fairly good idea.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. Was there anything you encountered during that training period that sort of stuck in your mind as things to really hone in on when it went down for real? Anything that you worked out a little problem in advance, or anything like that? Pretty much standard MOS [military occupational specialty] training?
SPC APPLEMAN: Prayed for good weather.
MAJ WRIGHT: You had a problem with practice?
SPC APPLEMAN: During the practice, it was raining every day so that the air support ... some of the choppers [helicopters] couldn't get off the ground. They promised us planes. Had a lot of problems with the air aspect of that practice.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K., you come up on 16th of December, the night the Navy officer [LT Robert Paz] was shot. What happened at that time to you guys?
SGT BROWN: On the 16th, when the Navy officer was shot, we were called on an alert from the unit. We all came in and went ahead with the prior practice that we usually do here at the battery as in when an alert is called, what has to be done for the 7th Howitzer. We all had to pull together from our own different little sections, come together, and at a time the chief firing battery XO [executive officer] already had a plan as in what howitzer would meet us, in what location, with the assistance that howitzer section would provide us with support to get howitzer in the proper position for the air assault mission. Also, we had to get in point of contact with the support [platoon] lieutenant at the 1st of the 508th to go get the ammunition. And we went in and go through the basic ... what we always go through when it is called upon an alert. This time, it wasn't the basic training of just the alert. This time, it was something you might be actually leaving because there was an encounter with a service member that really got shot.
At that time, everything so far was going smoothly. We got into position and all we was waiting for was our air support to take us on to whatever mission or location we had to go on to. As soon as about an hour later, we were told that we were ... that they would not be using the 7th howitzer section. That the battalion would go ahead and secure the howitzer and the ammunition and we would be on a down status until otherwise specified. To report back to the battalion if they would need another howitzer section.
MAJ WRIGHT: So then you sat basically ... sort of locked down here on short string throughout the remainder of that weekend? What time did you get the word to go back out and link back up with the 1st of the 508th?
SGT BROWN: Well, on the 19th of December, about 1200 hours, our support lieutenant from the 1st of the 508th, Lieutenant Standridge, had came over to the battery and pulled me to the side and told me he needed to get with me about a mission that was coming down. Prior to that, I already noticed that the first sergeant in the battery was already getting the battery all together as in to move out. So I had a prime idea more or less that we were getting ready to something, but I didn't know exactly [if] we were actually going to engage or just, you know, [make] some kind of show of strength, or whatever.
The lieutenant had told me that he had to go into an important meeting and most likely we would be going in to use all that training that we had for real. He went to the meeting and I had to wait. As soon as he get out of the meeting on his briefing for him to get back with me. And the section, at that time, we went ahead and started breaking down all our small arms ammunition, went in and draw our meals, and so forth, on a stand-by basis, and see if really this time was going to use the 7th Howitzer Section.
About 1700 hours he had called me back and told me to report over to the battalion and told me, 'this time it's for real. We are moving in at N-hour, 0100, the 20th of December.' And he asked me to come back down and get the crew together so we could go in and get a complete briefing with the map scales and everything, to show exactly where we're going to leave from or where we're going to go into and exactly how the whole scenario is going to be like.
MAJ WRIGHT: So that was the first time, despite whatever you suspected, that was the first time you guys knew for real that this was going to be ... that this was exactly what you were getting as a take-down?
MULTIPLE VOICES: Yes.
MAJ WRIGHT: At that time, did they brief you on the flight pattern for the assault?
SGT BROWN: Yes, they did.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you feel comfortable about the idea of swinging all the way around out over the water?
SPC APPLEMAN: Yes.
SGT BANE: Sir, when they told us, they said we were going to land at 01, which was a surprise. And, really, we got surprised, you know. It wasn't too bad when we dropped off the howitzer until we started seeing tracers over the helicopter. And [the crew] chief pulled our Section Chief, SGT Brown, and said, "We're landing in a hot LZ [landing zone]; be prepared to lock and load." And that's when the helicopter sort of like stood on its side, sir, and just took off, and we landed. And that was the rest of the story.
MAJ WRIGHT: So you assembled everybody for the brief at what time, 1900?
SPC DISHMAN: About 1900.
MAJ WRIGHT: At this point you're already over in the 1st of the 08th area, or are you still over here?
SGT BROWN: We're over [in] the 1st of the 508th conference room where they have a well laid-out diagram on exactly the way the terrain looks like, with little buildings, just about everything set up. He had showed us ... it was so specified, it had every tree in place. He actually showed us the tree which we was going to use for left cover of the howitzer. Due to the fact that we didn't have enough time to fill up sandbags, his idea was to use about seven GP [general purpose] medium tents folded as frontal cover for us while we get a chance to emplace the howitzer, we get the base plates in, and our break down the ammunition, and so forth. He even went over this with us.
He also gave us some flotation device in case of the helicopter was going out, or whatever, we'd have some kind of flotation device out there. He had went through the whole route of which helicopter should go by. So we would take off right here in Fort Kobbe and go on out towards the beach and stay on as far out as the [Pacific] Ocean to go around the islands on the causeway area and come on in without being detected.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. So, what time do you finally lift off?
SGT BROWN: We lift off about 0100 hours.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. At this point, you're going in the second lift, correct? They've already put in the infantry and the helicopters have come back for you to sling-load you out? What exactly did you take? You had the howitzer rigged up ... .
SGT BROWN: Right. We had the howitzer rigged up with some of the ammunition strapped with ratchet straps on the howitzer itself. We had a few rounds ... we had three rounds broken down in trail box. We had the equipment to set up the howitzer, which is a sledge hammer and stakes for the base plate.
And SPC Dishman, which is the number one man and ammo handler, he was carrying the fuses along in the fuse box. We was fully loaded with our small arms ammunition, which is all 5.56[mm] ammunition.
MAJ WRIGHT: How many magazines?
SGT BROWN: We all had six magazines of thirty rounds [each].
MAJ WRIGHT: Any grenades?
SGT BROWN: No.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you have a HMMWV [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle] as the prime mover? Or did you?
SGT BROWN: Yes, we had a HMMWV prime mover, which was in the first lift, along with SFC Torre-Rosa.
SPC APPLEMAN: The HMMWV, that HMMWV went out with us. That HMMWV went out with us because it was the HMMWV that was in front of us on the road.
SGT BROWN: Right. The first lift.
SGT BANE: The second lift.
SPC APPLEMAN: Second lift.
MAJ WRIGHT: Second lift. First aircraft on the second lift.
SPC DISHMAN: Check, sir.
SGT BROWN: Right. Actually, when the infantry moved up, we didn't even see it when it moved up. They came in afterwards with our seven people.
MAJ WRIGHT: Now, while you're sitting there waiting for the helicopters to return, you can see over ...
SPC APPLEMAN: We could see ...
MAJ WRIGHT: ... and see everything busting loose over the ...
SPC APPLEMAN: When we were sitting out here, we saw a lot of red lights coming up. We would see it go down and then come back up. Didn't have any idea what it was, but we could hear the fighting. We could hear the loud explosions over there.
MAJ WRIGHT: So, you know this is for real, this is not just another show of force drill?
SPC DISHMAN: Once we finally got on the chopper and it picked us up, and started to go out over the water, we could see the fire: the Comandancia, La Chorrera, and all that. It was just a big ball of flame there.
SGT BANE: We knew it would also be a little more difficult, too, with that fire in our background to like have darkness.
MAJ WRIGHT: Yeah. Good point. Yeah, the silhouetting effect starts.
SGT BANE: I knew we were screwed then. So...
SGT BROWN: In the original plan, it was that they was going to cut all the electricity off in [Fort] Amador. That was on our original briefing, was to cut off all the electricity to where we would be able to work freely around the howitzer without having to be sitting as silhouettes. With that big fire going on in the background, and also the electricity wasn't cut in Amador, we had the houses in the background [that] had the little porches' light on. Plus, the street lights were on. We were just actually silhouettes directly in front of the buildings and you could see if anybody wanted to fire towards that way.
MAJ WRIGHT: LTC [Ray] Fitzgerald [Commander, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry] said that he had decided not to cut the lights. He had the man there with him to cut the lights, but because of the fire there was no advantage to be gained from it, he felt, overall. And you had the advantage then of being able to see them moving silhouetted in the lights inside the buildings. So that that was why he had made that choice.
O.K. You lift off, you're coming on in; [do] you put down in the ditch?
SPC DISHMAN: No. When we came in where they set the gun on the golf course, and as soon as they set the gun down on the golf course ... but when we were coming in, before we got near the golf course, we were taking anti-aircraft fire in the Chorrera area. So we set the gun on the ground, punched it, and picked up and went back out over the [Panama] Canal, came back around across the causeway (high speed like nap of the earth), and came back in and dropped us off. And we really didn't have an idea where the howitzer was, so we moved toward the ditch. And the HMMWV was sitting in a ditch. LT Stanward saw us, hollered at us. We all got the Hmmwv, got up out of the ditch, and got the howitzer emplaced.
MAJ WRIGHT: That's the golf course between the American buildings, or the one over on the far side of the ditch?
SPC DISHMAN: No, the one next to the bank.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. How did you get the howitzer and the vehicle across that ditch?
SPC DISHMAN: Just went right in.
MAJ WRIGHT: Oh, O.K.. So, you pulled up to the tree that was your landmark to do the positioning, set up right there and then what? Just waited?
SGT BANE: Waited.
SPC DISHMAN: We waited for LTC Fitzgerald.
SPC APPLEMAN: See, the colonel was supposed to have like a surrender thing, a spiel to give to the Panamanians and he just kept issuing it every ten minutes. We just waited. We moved, we moved a couple of times to get a better view of the main different buildings they had.
MAJ WRIGHT: Displaced the howitzer or just moved yourselves?
MULTIPLE VOICES: Displaced the howitzer.
SPC DISHMAN: We moved the howitzer one time, and we had like a little berm in front of us and the Colonel was afraid that we might hit that berm, so he had us pick the howitzer up and move it again to another position, where we, you know, like maybe thirty meters to the left, where we had a little better advantage point to hit the building.
SGT BANE: And all this time, sir, while we were moving the howitzer, we did know if ... there was no cover. We were like set up behind GP mediums. When we set up in our first position, we put the GP mediums up and then we waited and then we moved. And after we moved, sir, there was no cover there besides that little berm, and then we went back again to behind the GP mediums.
SPC DISHMAN: We put the GP mediums back in front of us.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you take any sniper fire through all of this?
SPC APPLEMAN: Nay, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: Do you think they even knew you were there at this point, in the dark?
SPC APPLEMAN: I'm sure they did. By the time ... I'm pretty sure they did because we had a lot of lights, there was all sorts of lights behind us. A lot of people moving around. I'm sure because when we first emplaced there wasn't any firing. I'm sure they could hear the sledge hammers and all that stuff, because it's, it was pretty loud.
SGT BANE: They had to have known it even with that loud speaker. That loud speaker ... there had to be people in those buildings, all of them maybe fled, I don't know, but there were people in there.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K.. About what time do you get the word, and is it LTC Fitzgerald himself who gives it?
SPC APPLEMAN: 0557, just before light.
MAJ WRIGHT: They had started out with firing it up with lesser weapons before they get up to you?
SPC APPLEMAN: They started off with [M-2] .50-cal[iber machine gun]s, and 90mm recoilless rifles, and I'm pretty sure some AT-4s. And then, like I said, at 5:30 in the morning, we fired some rounds. But we put a round in Buildings 9, 8, and 7.
MAJ WRIGHT: Just shot them from left to right?
SPC APPLEMAN: Fired at [Building] 9. They said fire again, fired at 8; fire again, fired at 7.
MAJ WRIGHT: One round apiece?
SPC DISHMAN: Check, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: What were you firing?
SPC DISHMAN: HEPD, HEPD rounds.
MAJ WRIGHT: And they just told you to take out the center mass in the building?
SPC DISHMAN: Yes, sir.
SPC APPLEMAN: Yes, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: Was that his decision or was that your recommendation to him?
SGT BANE: That was his decision.
SGT BROWN: Those were his decisions. He was highly concerned of the howitzer or the round clearing the building. If it clears the building, you go right into the Canal area, which, you know, I don't know, maybe a boat or somebody would get hit.
SPC DISHMAN: It was a concern that we might miss, but it's pretty impossible to miss that big a target.
MAJ WRIGHT: Any problems on the first round with recoil or anything? You were anchored, so it was not an issue?
MULTIPLE VOICES: No.
SGT BROWN: Where we were set up ... the first time we were set up, we couldn't actually see Building 9. So, that was because it was about two or three in the morning. So he moved us to the second position where the berm was there. We actually had all the buildings in our view from 9 back down to Building 3.
He was very concerned with the berm, being he's a infantry officer, you know, he feel that maybe just that berm might have to go up just too much--too much switching around would tend to clear the building. At that time he moved us to just about the center of ... not the center, but open of the golf course. Back portion goes into the tree line of the golf course. We was actually laying out the howitzer like sitting ducks, right: our backs turned to the enemy and trying to drive stakes. And he tried to open up on the .50-cal. to fire upon the building while we are trying to drive these stakes. Maybe for whoever is in the building keep their head down while we get a chance to put the stakes in.
At that time, they had a little detail of selected personnel who had to move these tents over to make cover for us while we was emplacing the howitzer. At that time, once we get into the third position, we just sat around there, you know, take cover behind the bags waiting until we get word if we were going to fire or what we were going to fire at.
Close to about 0530-0545, right on the break when the sun was coming in, we were instructed from the rear of the buildings where the ... mainly, I guess, that was their CP [command post] headquarters where most of the command was coming from. LTC Fitzgerald and LT Standridge came over to say, "You're going to fire on five EX. SGT Brown, can you see Building 9, 8, and 7?" I acknowledged, "Yes, sir, I can see Building 9, 8, 7." He told me, "Fire one round each at 9, 8, and 7." At that time, we went ahead and adjusted fire at each building.
MAJ WRIGHT: I saw most of the ... most of the hits are right at, exactly at, the center of mass, right between the first floor and the second floor, pretty much right over the middle of the building. Did you get back-briefed later on about the damage? I mean, I didn't get into those buildings, so I don't know. What did the damage look like on the inside from the round?
SPC APPLEMAN: We didn't get a chance to check, sir. We just ... after we fired the round, after we got through firing 9, 8, and 7, then he moved us to another location. I guess when the infantry was sweeping from the left to the right, so they were sweeping from 9 on down. It was either Building 4, 3, or 3 or 2, that they were receiving enemy fire from, sir. So we had to move in and get a position on Building 3. And then, at that time, we waited for the fire mission and then we got our fire mission to fire on Building 3. But, at no time did we get a chance to enter the buildings. All we got to see was this big hole that we put inside of one.
MAJ WRIGHT: That pretty much ... each time a round went in, it shut that building off completely. Right? I mean, you didn't get much fire out of it after that?
SPC APPLEMAN: No, sir. No, it was silenced and all those rounds that went earlier, those other places and stuff, the power still stayed on; after we fired a charge 7 at them, there was no power.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. And you were firing charge 7s?
SPC APPLEMAN: Yes, sir.
SPC DISHMAN: It's the direct fire charge, you don't start firing any other charge.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. Take out 9, 8, 7; displace. About how long before he tells you to go ahead and start the next sequence of buildings?
SGT BROWN: O.K. Once we get through 9, 8, and 7, he gave us an end of mission right there. We stand by and hold our position. Actually expected some kind of return fire of some sort. We were instructed to move away from the piece just in case we get some kind of a LAW [light antitank weapon] or something that was going to come out and try to take out the howitzer. We had to move back just a little bit towards the rear where, on the golf course, they had this part of the berm that went back towards that area. But, an hour or so later, once the infantry went ahead and cleared through the Buildings 9, 8, 7, 6 going on down, they started encountering fire out of Building 4 and 3--or in that area. At that time, they told us to march our howitzer and bring it over to a better position where we could get a better view of Building 3 and Building 2.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. Which way did you displace that? To your left or to your right?
MULTIPLE VOICES: To our right, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K. Because there's that bleachers in the ball field and you had to get an angle where you didn't have that interfering with you.
MULTIPLE VOICES: Check.
SGT BROWN: On number 3, we didn't have the bleachers in the way; number 2 the bleachers were there. We was trying to see how we could go around the bleachers without actually hitting the bleachers, as long as we didn't take the bleachers along with them. But, fortunately, they gave us our end of mission prior to number 2. We had a view on it, of Building 2. I'm sorry, we had a view of the center of the building like the other buildings, we love to hit them towards the edge of the number 2 building, which SGT Bane acknowledge he had a good view on that number 2 building. So, once we got over there and was placing howitzer, we encountered a flat tire coming up on the sidewalk, so that was one downfall. So we knew after that it was going to be hard for us to march by shoulder.
MAJ WRIGHT: Fire tower around the howitzer or the HMMWV?
MULTIPLE VOICES: On the howitzer.
SGT BROWN: So, once we set up, we stand by. They came by again and told us to fire on Building 3 and Building 2. So we went ahead and load up and fire at Building 3. We load up to traverse the howitzer, picking up a better sight picture, SGT Bane doing the direction. And I gave the range to SPC Appleman, and right before we was getting ready, one of us took ... take a quick glance to check on the range, they gave us a cease fire. So we had a cease fire right there going for number 2. So that was all the firing we did, was just four rounds.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K., 9, 8, 7.
SGT BROWN: And Building 3.
MAJ WRIGHT: And Building 3.
MAJ WRIGHT: Had you planned or been rehearsed or briefed on taking out then Building 1, which was the big one?
SGT BROWN: Well, it was mentioned for us to take out Building 1. First of all, with the flat tire, we had no spare from the beginning. So they send the maintenance officer and maintenance sergeant from the 1st of the 508th to see what it could do for us. Since the P.D.F. just had a whole bunch of [M-151] Jeeps just sitting out behind Building 8, if they had got one of the Jeep tires to us we wouldn't have had a problem, we could replace our tire.
So, once we had marched that howitzer that was grounded. In the evening hours, around 5 o'clock, 1700 hours, we had marched that howitzer. LTC Fitzgerald, MG [Marc] Cisneros, LT Standridge and his other officers, they was all in their little meeting. They was planning to see what they're going to do with Building 1. I guess Building 1 was getting some kind of resistance out of it because they had the .50-cals. from the 4[th Battalion], 6th [Infantry] there adjusting [fire] on the building or whatever from an angle. He wanted to fire on Building 1, but then he also had doubts: do he really want to do that much damage to that building, and go ahead and sweep it in and use combat engineers and their C-4 [explosive] and whatever they use.
So they was into that debating for a while whether or not they wanted to use the 105[mm howitzer]. Then they came to the point where they had a good position to set us up, they just wanted to swing us in there real quick and fire. And then we was out. We didn't have no position to set up in front of it, it was too close. And they were also receiving fire. So it would have to be like just hold the howitzer right there, fire it with a base plate up and everything. And they didn't want to take that chance either because it's not recommendable to your stock howitzer. And then they came up with the idea of firing it off the back of the ... hooked up off the vehicle, which ...
SGT BANE: Negative. That's a no-no.
SGT BROWN: So they just went ahead and said, well, we're going to nix the 105 completely and just use another route.
That was it for our mission with those buildings. That evening around 1900 hours, he had moved us and linked us up with the 1st of the 508th for gate security or anything coming off the Islands into the Amador area.
MAJ WRIGHT: So you moved down to causeway, the end of the causeway, to keep an eye on [Isla] Flamenco?
SGT BROWN: Flamenco, Naos and Perico Island.
SPC DISHMAN: For anybody coming in.
SGT BROWN: Just as extra fire power because they had just about enough fire power to take care of it.
SPC APPLEMAN: They had two TOW [Tube-launched, Optically-Guided antitank Weapon] launchers, two 90mm recoilless rifles, a [M-249] SAW [squad automatic weapon], about twelve or fourteen
AT-4s, and numerous M-16s besides us.
MAJ WRIGHT: That should have been enough to handle a V-300 [armored car] coming up.
SPC APPLEMAN: There was more than enough to handle one of those.
MAJ WRIGHT: How long did you stay down there at Amador?
SPC APPLEMAN: We stayed ... we left the causeway to link up with the battery Saturday afternoon. That's when MAJ Sinally, the [193d Infantry] Brigade FSO [Fire Support Officer] came and picked us up.
SGT BROWN: The 23d [of December].
MAJ WRIGHT: So you were back here at Kobbe then?
SPC APPLEMAN: Uh, uh.
MAJ WRIGHT: Oh, out at Empire [Range]?
SPC APPLEMAN: No, we were in the position behind Kobbe providing covering fire at [Fort] Clayton or Panama City.
MAJ WRIGHT: But you never did fire from up there? So you got the only four rounds in from Battery D?
MULTIPLE VOICES: Yes, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: Which makes it the only four artillery rounds fired by Joint Task Force SOUTH?
SPC DISHMAN: Operation JUST CAUSE, yes, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you take turns pulling the lanyard, or did you do it by ... ?
SPC APPLEMAN: I was scared myself because, you know, I was just standing around, sir. And SGT Brown was putting them inside and he was also pulling the lanyard, sir.
SGT BROWN: Everyone was putting it in.
SPC APPLEMAN: You don't take credit if you don't say something...
[MULTIPLE VOICES TALKING AT ONCE]
MAJ WRIGHT: Then, any observations about that sort of MOUT [military operations on urbanized terrain] fighting? Had you gone through any of that back going through AIT [advanced individual training]? Use of howitzers in MOUT?
MULTIPLE VOICES: No.
MAJ WRIGHT: Oh, okay.
SPC DISHMAN: They said ... they said when you get to Panama, you'll have [M]-109s. You'll not be using the [M]-102. And when I come to Panama, I wanted to get my drill sergeant because I had 102s.
SGT BANE: I don't know about urban training. It was more like perfect suburban training. We got some grass to put the base plate on.
MAJ WRIGHT: Yeah, which ...
SGT BANE: Urban is, you know concrete. You can find some grass in an urban area, that's probably real seldom.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you enjoy any kind of a return visit then from LTC Fitzgerald or anything saying thanks, you know, after you had pulled out? Did anybody say anything to you?
SGT BROWN: Well, we have seen LTC Fitzgerald a couple of times when he came out to the causeway. He had briefed the platoon element that was out there. He had came out every day and gave us some kind of a briefing of more of less what was going on in the outside war, such as the over there, and he told us about the casualties the battalion received, the casualties the brigade received, and the number of casualties that the American Army received. So he actually came out there ... with dealing with this situation and the position he's holding, it's kind of hard for him to actually come out and personally shake hands and say 'perfect job.'
Of course the battalion and all that was in conflict. You know, actually, the person that come out and say you did this and you did that, it was not real time for that.
SGT BANE: I'm sure he enjoyed having us though, sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: When I interviewed him, he spoke very highly of that asset that, you know, gave him sort of one-up on all the other battalion commanders in-country.
How did you do on getting your rucksacks and everything? Did you have them in the HMMWV?
SGT BANE: The rucksacks we have on HMMWV that we air-lifted at Amador ... we threw in the three rounds we didn't have on the howitzer and we hooked all the rucksacks to the troop seats: hung on the outside of the troop seats, taped them on so they wouldn't fall off, so the straps wouldn't pop or anything, fall off. So we didn't have any problem getting our equipment there. We just all put it on the HMMWV and tied it down and all that stuff.
MAJ WRIGHT: What about food?
MULTIPLE VOICES: The 508th is good about that. The 508th does a good job.
SPC APPLEMAN: Every time they had MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat], sir, they just said here you go, you guys, here's your MREs.
MAJ WRIGHT: How soon into Operation JUST CAUSE was it before you guys saw a hot meal?
SPC APPLEMAN: Sir, it was the next day.
[MULTIPLE VOICES ARGUING]
SPC DISHMAN: It was the second evening. They brought T-rats [Tray Rations] out to us on the causeway.
MAJ WRIGHT: Very good.
SGT BANE: Yeah, it was pretty good.
MAJ WRIGHT: Yeah, because the guys over on the other side of town went right to the wall until the Surgeon told them they had to stop that. They couldn't keep feeding MREs past ten days. But they went ten days straight.
SPC APPLEMAN: Yeah, they were giving out the supplies, sir. They gave us, like they asked us if we needed resupply ... like myself, I use Copenhagen [snuff], and they brought us out Copenhagen and they brought us ...
MULTIPLE VOICES: ...and sodas, chips.
SPC APPLEMAN: And they brought some popsicles out to us and some doughnuts one time.
SGT BROWN: Yeah, the first sergeant ...
SPC APPLEMAN: Of HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company], 1st of the 508th.
SGT BROWN: ... 508th was just absolutely, you know, he showed a lot of interest in his troops and also, with us, he treated us just like as if we was part of...
[END OF SIDE 1]
SPC APPLEMAN: The families were real good to us ... a lot of people came out and gave a lot of stuff to soldiers.
SGT BROWN: For the first morning on Amador itself, the neighbors or people that lived in that area, they would come down and they would bring you little bags of cookies or doughnuts and coffee. You know. They was taking a chance but they would reach out the doors and a soldier would go over and they would send, you know, a pot of coffee over and cookies, stuff like that, you know. You know, we had a lot of support even though at that time nobody was actually eating, but we had some coffee and stuff. Some lady even brought a television and donated it to the CP and they was watching on the news what was going on and, you know.
MAJ WRIGHT: So you guys got to see yourselves in fairly quick time?
MULTIPLE VOICES: Oh, no sir.
MAJ WRIGHT: O.K., that gets me to the next and I guess kind of my final question. Were you aware of the fact that there was a TV crew filming while you were firing?
SPC APPLEMAN: At 9 o'clock, Wednesday night, the first full night of the whole thing, we were sitting in ... we had pulled up preparing the move to the causeway. And we were sitting in the housing area and there were the I believe it was the battalion TOC [tactical operations center] and Aid Station and all that stuff that was set up. And LT Stanford went in this house and he came back out later saying that on CNN [Cable News Network] Headline News we were the prime shot.
SGT BANE: It says "Artillery rocks Panama."
MAJ WRIGHT: I mean, it was high-speed stuff back in the States. But, I mean, could you see the camera man?
SGT BANE: No, sir, we had people behind us as we were going into Building 3, firing upon Building 3. We had photographs, people behind us, photographers and stuff. We had people running along with us as we put in our base stakes, they were taking pictures.
SPC APPLEMAN: I saw video cameras and 35mm cameras also.
SGT BANE: There was just one guy with a camera. I thought he was going to load a round for us, he was taking it so close.
SPC APPLEMAN: He was really motivated.
SGT BANE: These people, I was concerned for their safety.
SPC APPLEMAN: I just want to get the Time and Newsweek for this. I want to get the pictures.
SGT BROWN: Well, that one guy only with the camera, we didn't really believe that he was actually going to broadcast this to the United States. We figured this was one guy freelancing for ...
[MULTIPLE VOICES TALKING AT ONCE]
SGT BROWN: ... because many times we have been recorded right here, you know, from SCN [Southern Command Network] or whatever, and nobody never sees it. This was being recorded for a file or something.
SPC APPLEMAN: That's few and far between.
SGT BROWN: At the moment, that wasn't anywhere close to our minds as in, you know, they're going to show this on the big, you know, NBC, CNN, all that. Just the mission was on our minds more.
MAJ WRIGHT: Have you been in contact with the folks back home?
SGT BROWN: Yes.
SPC APPLEMAN: I called our family afterward, just after Christmas.
SGT BANE: I called my wife.
MAJ WRIGHT: Had they seen it? Did they recognize you?
SGT BANE: Well, my wife, sir, she was sort of like in shock. So I brought her out of the shock and I told her I was still alive. I guess, sir, my mother-in-law watched it on the news and said 'that's my son-in-law!' And I guess the whole family went into shock, sir.
SPC APPLEMAN: I talked to my dad and I asked him if he had seen it. And he said he saw what I was talking about, but didn't realize it was me.
SPC DISHMAN: I told my sister that we were apparently on television and she said that her son, my nephew, said he thought, 'That's Uncle Tony there,' so ... I guess she didn't believe him, so I don't know.
SGT BROWN: I had my brother, the first morning, he woke up and when he turned on the TV, television, to watch all the game shows or whatever, he saw the stuff, the invasion of Panama stuff. He was flipping through the channels that evening when he saw the artillery actually firing. He had known I'm in artillery but he really couldn't recognize, see, exactly who was there because he say the lighting, the background was moved right where we were. So he actually didn't see the people but he didn't say, well, that's so-and-so or he never would think that I would be there.
MAJ WRIGHT: You guys got anything else you can think of for the record?
SPC APPLEMAN: Just that we had one heck of a chopper ride in there.
MAJ WRIGHT: You'd never done one like that before?
SPC APPLEMAN: Sir, I stay away from rides at the fair because I get a queasy stomach. I'm not used to that.
SPC DISHMAN: I used to be on advanced party. I was on advance party this year, I was the advance party man for a howitzer section that I was on for almost two years. And we used to do a lot of air assault operations, and the advance party would go out and we would get on the logs [logistics aircraft] and stuff like that, and flew in that the so we did that quite often.
SGT BROWN: There's only one thing I would like to add to all of this, sir. It is something that kind of bothers me just a little bit. Is that the 193rd [Infantry Brigade] did a lot of training prior to this. They did a lot of good training here. These people know exactly where to go, where not to go. And the ones that actually took Amador to the major portion of the City ... of course, the mission would not be complete if we didn't have the support from the 7th I[nfantry] D[ivision], the 82d [Airborne Division], and the Rangers and everybody else that came along to help us out. But it seems like they're getting most of all the recognition rather than what the 193rd is doing. We got people who are ... that would give their life in defense or in support of this mission and he comes under the 7th ID or he comes under 82d. It seems like the 193d ain't even in Panama, you know, we ain't getting that kind of recognition that we deserve.
SPC APPLEMAN: In the Army Times, they gave a little thing about each soldier that was killed. With the PFC Coats of the 508th, with the unit and where he was stationed, it said, "1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg." That's 193rd Infantry Brigade, Fort Kobbe, Panama. It's a long way from Bragg.
SPC DISHMAN: It just seems like we were just here, sir, as a support for other units coming in and taking Panama, when all the time we've been down here training, going out to the field training fourteen days. We had a fourteen-day exercise before this. General [Maxwell] Thurman said that he wanted a fourteen-day training exercise, and we trained for fourteen days to do exactly this, day in/day out, day in/day out. And then, when mission comes down, we hear about how the 82d jumped in and they get their combat jump. And the Rangers went to secure Rio Hato on how big a fight it was. But you don't hear anything about the 193rd Brigade, who really spear-headed the whole operation.
MAJ WRIGHT: That's the function of history, is to correct all the things that TV misses. So, trust me that the 193rd had the principal fight with the other operations ... I mean, LTG [Carl W.] Stiner knows. The other operations were all done based on the primary effort being taken by the 193rd. So, the generals know it, the newspaper reporters don't, but that's the way those sorts of things go.
Thanks a lot, guys.
MULTIPLE VOICES: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]