DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview
Captain Dave Taylor, Jr.
Headquarters Battery, 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery
Serving as Fire Support Officer with the 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry
Interview conducted 21 May 1990 at Building C-5129, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., Historian, XVIII Airborne Corps
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 075
DR. WRIGHT: This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted on 21 May 1990 in Building C-5129, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The interviewing official is Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., the XVIII Airborne Corps historian. And sir if I could get you to give me your full name, rank, and serial number?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. My name is CPT Dave Taylor, Jr. And the Social Security Number is ***-**-****.
DR. WRIGHT: At the time of Operation JUST CAUSE, what was your duty assignment?
CPT TAYLOR: I was the Fire Support Officer [FSO] for the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
DR. WRIGHT: And you are officially then attached to Headquarters, Headquarters [and Service] Battery, 3d [Battalion] of the 319th [Field Artillery]?
CPT TAYLOR: I am assigned to HSB, 3d Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. However, for tactical purposes I am attached officially to the infantry, to the HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company], 1st Battalion (Airborne), [504th Infantry].
DR. WRIGHT: That then would mean that on a regular basis you would always train with them on all FTXs [field training exercises] and whatnot? So it was a habitual training relationship?
CPT TAYLOR: That's right. It was a habitual training relationship to the point that I spent most of my time with them as opposed to with the artillery. Oftentimes I go to the woods with the infantry for weeks while the artillery battalion would be behind. So indeed there was a habitual and a long-lasting relationship. By the time we deployed I had been FSO for a year and a half.
DR. WRIGHT: So at that point you knew the battalion commander quite well? You were inside his thought process?
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed. As a matter of fact, I made it one of the points of being a successful Fire Support Officer to get inside the inner sanctum of the hierarchy of the 1/504. And so I was in his hip pocket.
DR. WRIGHT: And the battalion commander was colonel ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: Colonel Marable, LTC [Renard H.] Marable at the time of the deployment.
DR. WRIGHT: You come from a background, then, an airborne background?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, this is my first airborne assignment. I come from a mech[anized] background, having just come from Germany prior to coming here to the 82d [Airborne Division].
DR. WRIGHT: So the tube artillery used here in the 82d is the M-102 105[mm] howitzer?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed it is, 105mm towed.
DR. WRIGHT: And in a mech unit of this era, we're talking primarily SP [self-propelled] and larger caliber?
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed. The 155mm tube is what was the type of caliber ammunition I had in Germany.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. So you had a little bit of an adjustment to make then to prepare yourself for the type of fire support assets that would be available in a contingency as opposed to mid-intensity conflict?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, you know, the terms mid-intensive conflict really have no bearing as far as those who are in it. I mean one bullet or 20 really doesn't lessen the intensity when you're being shot at directly.
However, the adjustment was not from the caliber of weapons per se as to the deployment. In mech units we ride to work whereas [in] the 82d we "jump and hump," as the colloquialism. We jump in and then we walk to our objective. So the only adjustment was in the matter of actually getting to the objective--walking as opposed to riding.
DR. WRIGHT: When were you first made aware of the plan that became Operation JUST CAUSE?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, at 0900 hours on the morning of 18 December, which was a Monday, I became aware that we were in an N-Hour. That's what N-Hour was. I was told that at 9:30. I was in a safety council meeting. We did not get told that we were going into Panama until that afternoon of the 18th. We were told at N-Hour, at the N-plus-2 briefing, that we were going to have an "EDRE," [emergency deployment readiness exercise] onto Sicily Drop Zone [at Fort Bragg]. So we did not officially get told we were going into Panama until the evening of the 18th, once we were secure at headquarters area.
DR. WRIGHT: You were locked down at PHA [personnel holding area] before they did that?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. So we did not get that at until we were actually in the PHA lockdown--lock, stock, and barrel.
DR. WRIGHT: You had not been involved, then, in the BLACK KNIGHT rehearsal?
CPT TAYLOR: No. As a matter of fact, that was another complete and separate brigade that did that. We were told that this was going to be the second iteration. However, that was another brigade that was involved in the initial BLACK KNIGHT.
DR. WRIGHT: That was 3d Brigade that had done it?
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed it was.
DR. WRIGHT: And 1st Brigade is the one who actually got to do it for real?
CPT TAYLOR: To actually execute it. Indeed. Rehearsal and practice. Airborne!
DR. WRIGHT: So you say about 0930 is when you are notified that the EDRE is on?
CPT TAYLOR: 9:30 is when we were notified that it was an N-Hour of 09. At N-plus-2, when the N-plus-2 briefing, is when we got notified of the plan.
You know, the difference between N-Hour and N-plus-2 is that those are the two hours you get to get everybody started in the process. You don't actually get involved with the plan from higher until N-plus-2.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. This goes down, then, December 18. It is a cold December.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, it is.
DR. WRIGHT: And in fact, on December 19 we will have a sustained sleet storm.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed, it was freezing in the aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: So as you get over to PHA, are you in the temperate-weight uniforms or in the lightweight uniforms?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, I was already in the heavy-duty or the moderate uniforms. But that's a thing that I wear anyway. Whenever I am going to go to the field, regardless of the temperature I always wear the duty--the heavy-duty--weight, because of the amount of material I jump in with and the amount of stress that's going to be placed on it. I found out that the lightweight uniform does not last very long in any type of environment, regardless of what the weather is, simply because it's a lighter-weight, nondurable material.
DR. WRIGHT: What time, then? You go at the N-plus-2, which would be 1100 hours?
CPT TAYLOR: 1100 hours, 18 December.
DR. WRIGHT: Where are you briefed?
CPT TAYLOR: We are briefed at division N-plus-2 room.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.
CPT TAYLOR: That's at division headquarters, secured area where we can get briefed on the tactical plan in a secure environment without having to worry about, you know, visitors. It's locked and controlled access.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point, do you begin to get a sense of 'this is a real one,' or are you still operating in the belief that this is just a nice way to mess up the half-day work schedule?
CPT TAYLOR: At that particular time, the N-plus-2 briefing, having been to several before, having been EDRE'd off post many times before, habitually with the high-speed infantry, the airborne task force, at that particular point I thought it was just another exercise.
As far as the half-day schedule, that didn't really have any relevance because we had been, based on the 82d cycle, on mission cycle during holidays before. So I figured this was just another EDRE, that we were indeed going to Sicily.
However, the incident which preceded that, the murder of the American officer down there that weekend, those two together put into a common sense mode said that, hey, we're having this EDRE now, it's a JCS-directed EDRE as opposed to a [XVIII Airborne] Corps-[directed] EDRE.
DR. WRIGHT: Self-imposed EDRE?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. So those two together made me think that indeed this was going to Panama. However, I did not get that confirmed until that evening. This is just a common sense putting together of facts.
DR. WRIGHT: Is it your belief that most individuals that were present in that N-plus-2 briefing did that same mental arithmetic of 2 plus 2 equals I better take this one really serious?
CPT TAYLOR: I don't think so, because some of the others had already been briefed that it was going to happen ... obviously the level of access there ... but I think that the ones in the N-plus-2 room, based on that, probably had the same opinion. There was intelligence--these are the leaders, these are the actual combatants who were responsible for key areas of the combat operation. And so, having that knowledge of what had just happened, the fact that we already had an element down there on the ground, and the fact that we were having a JCS EDRE; I think the summation of those parts was at the most people thought we were going there.
DR. WRIGHT: So you leave. The meeting breaks up. You then report back to LTC Marable and the battalion headquarters?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Go back down to battalion headquarters now, and once we've got our briefing it's time for us to start preparing the internal battalion briefings and planning for the rehearsal and everything. Because now we're in the N-Hour sequence, and of course that's an 18-hour sequence theoretically with the wheels up at 18 hours from now. And we have our orders, back briefs, and rehearsals to conduct prior to the execution of the operation.
DR. WRIGHT: What specifically did you learn of the plan as far as it applied to the 1st of the '04 at that point?
CPT TAYLOR: Within the N-plus-2 room? At that particular point we were briefed that it was going to be onto Sicily, so we did not learn any specific thing other than it was going to be usual airfield seizure, you know, parachute assault, the normal things we do all the time.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you ... were you told at that point about the assemble in PZ [pickup zone] posture and then conduct an air mobile assault?
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed. We were told it was going to be a reiteration of BLACK KNIGHT I: twenty-one C-141s [Starlifters]; one pass north and south Sicily; a similar PZ posture one hour later; and conduct an air assault. That's what we were told at the operation [briefing] there. However, we were told that was going to take place on Sicily Drop Zone.
DR. WRIGHT: During the other EDREs and the other training events, had you ever practiced jumping in? Because assembling in PZ posture is not normally part of the airfield seizure package.
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed it is not.
DR. WRIGHT: So had you ever rehearsed that before?
CPT TAYLOR: No, we had not to that extent. As a matter of fact, quite frankly, putting 2 and 2 together again having been on approximately twenty-five mass tac[tical jump]s with 1/504 and having seen, you know, the status of personnel and etc., etc., etc. Realistically I thought that was impossible to occur within one hour--to be in PZ posture and then to airlift it out of there one hour after a tactical airborne assault like that. But we had not practiced that to any extent before, no.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you been ... were you told at that point that it would be a night jump?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. We were told it was to be a night jump.
DR. WRIGHT: Thereby complicating matters still further?
CPT TAYLOR: Not necessarily. Our level of training, we do everything at night. As a matter of fact, you know, jumping back from some exercises was the only time we could jump in the day. So we jump at night so habitually it's second nature. And that's the level of training we have in the 82d. So that fact of the night jump did not present any additional complications.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you feel in retrospect, with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, that that nighttime rehearsal, habitual nighttime operation, paid a dividend when you actually got into combat for real?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, indeed. As a matter of fact, I would say that all the training: the nighttime operations, the stressful conditions we encounter all the time, all of our training, the summation--one component being the nighttime portion--really contributed to our success on the ground. The fact that we had trained just like that here in peacetime. Indeed.
DR. WRIGHT: How long do you spend down at battalion headquarters before you start loading up to go over to PHA?
CPT TAYLOR: You're talking during an N-Hour sequence?
DR. WRIGHT: Well, during this particular sequence.
CPT TAYLOR: For this particular sequence, we went down there and the battalion started rolling to the PHA at about N-plus-4 1/2. So we spent N-Hour down there, got notified, walked down the 1/504 with all my gear. We spent approximately four-and-a-half, five hours down there before going into the PHA from 1/504.
DR. WRIGHT: Talk me through, now, the procedure as you roll into PHA. During the time you're there, what happens in there?
CPT TAYLOR: O.K. As we roll into the PHA, of course, the first thing, we have two parts that are happening simultaneously. The NCOs and the sergeant major are responsible for getting the area set up for the troops to go ahead and reside and get all their gear, etc. Meantime, I am with the colonel and the S-3, and we are now preparing our briefing area over in the staff component area. So while they're getting that set up, we are now going in there and we're starting to see what's going on. Still up until this time, at N-plus-4 1/2 [to N-plus]-5, we're still thinking that it's on for Sicily. It wasn't until about N-plus-6, after we're in the PHA, when the S-3 turned to me and said, "Dave, we're going into Panama to take it down." His exact quote was, "Dave, we're going in to take down Panama." And I said, "Airborne, sir!"
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Now, describe the pucker factor that begins building. As you look around at the troops around you, as they start getting that word ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... that this is for real. Do you seen any change in their demeanor?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. They all got happier. They got happy that America, that President [George] Bush had made the decision to send us in. We got tired of that crap down in Panama, and the guys all had a great positive change in attitude because we had done this so many times before, jumping into Sicily, EDRE here or EDRE there, that the fact that we're going in, the soldiers really had a positive upturn in attitude. They were happy, ecstatic, and there were whoops and hollers, "Airborne! We're going down there to kick, you know, Manuel [Noriega] and his boys out." So they had a really positive turn of events.
And I as a fire support officer, I was ecstatic because I am knowing that I am going to be in control now of all sorts of assets to go down there with a mission of actually blowing these people up for real in a peacetime mission.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you draw your ammunition?
CPT TAYLOR: We draw our ammunition--this is on the 19th, so in other words--no, that's not true. We drew it the night of the 18th, because we actually slept with it. We already had our stuff. I remember this: as I got into the bunk, all the soldiers had their stuff. So we drew our ammunition the evening of the 18th, that same night.
DR. WRIGHT: And did you have one of the cards, the basic load cards that you then turned in?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. We had it. The ESIP card is what it's called, you know, which has ...
DR. WRIGHT: What's that acronym? Can you spell it?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, E-S-I-P stands for extra special--I don't know the exact--but I know it's a card that you can get, you know, to get your ammunition on. And supposedly it has by position the precise number of rounds of type of ammunition, etc., that you are to draw, you know, once you get inside. In other words, the process goes: you show the individual at the ammunition point your card and then you automatically get such-and-such, so many rounds of this, that, and the other, and then you just walk right on through.
DR. WRIGHT: What was your basic load?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, my basic load I had down there as a staff officer just had a certain number of 9mm rounds. What I actually drew into Panama, I drew two boxes of 100 rounds of 9mm, as well as one LAW [M-72A2 Light Antitank Weapon], and also I took some flares down, as well as some star clusters.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you take any grenades?
CPT TAYLOR: No, I did not take any grenades. Nor smoke grenades. I took star clusters for signaling devices. I did not take any smoke grenades personally. However, my FSC [fire support coordinator]. I cross-loaded with my FS [fire support] NCOs that was going to be right there with me. He took a lot of the smoke devices, and I took the warning devices, figuring that, you know, it would be more important for us to signal to our guys when the ship fires as opposed to popping smoke ourselves to let them know what was going on. So I made that decision, and that's what I jumped in.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was your FS NCO?
CPT TAYLOR: SFC Pullman.
DR. WRIGHT: First name?
CPT TAYLOR: Rob. Rob Pullman.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you been working with him for a lengthy time?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, as a matter of fact, ever since I became FSO 1/504 back in April 1988, he was the FS NCO. So indeed we have both worked together for over a year and a half prior to going down.
DR. WRIGHT: So you had worked out all the details about who was going to carry what in whose pack?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, exactly. We do that habitually, you know, whenever we go into an operation. So this is just another jump for us; the only thing is that this time we took, you know, more signaling devices. Usually, when we go into Sicily we don't do that because infantry takes that in, and it just signals when they secure the airfield. But this time we did, but we already had that prearranged as to who was to take what.
DR. WRIGHT: What about radio equipment? Do you carry radios?
CPT TAYLOR: Habitually, yes. As a matter of fact, as the FSO, I always joke about the size of my rucksack. But, yes, I always jump with the radio, the Vinson [secure device], and additional batteries for each.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. So you each went in with a [AN]/PRC-77?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: You mention your rucksack. Large ruck or the medium ALICE?
CPT TAYLOR: No. Large. Large. Mandatory to be a large based on the amount of equipment that I carry in.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. What else did you carry besides your radio and the extra batteries, the ammunition, your personal weapon? What other items did you have in your rucksack?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, like I said, in addition to the radio items, we had basically the LCE [load carrying equipment], which was configured as it was, you know, with the knife, M-9 bayonet, butt pack with E-tool [entrenching tool] configured there also. Wet-weather gear, all of that inside; two poncho liners. The airborne packing list, which included, you know, the toiletries, you know, one uniform, poncho liner as well as your air items, which would be rigged to jump the rucksack in.
Other than that, of course, we had the three MREs, you know, jumped in rations; two-quart canteen filled with water. All told, that came out to weighing, with the accessory pack as well as the ammunition--it weighed 127 pounds.
DR. WRIGHT: You're very precise on that. Did you scale it out?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we did. [LAUGHTER] Yes, I did.
DR. WRIGHT: Preserving a basic and essential fact for posterity.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, not necessarily so. It's something I do every time we jump because we jump so heavy [a] ruck so many times, we had an issue of one day an FSC lightening the load of the FSE guy because you've got to go in with all the equipment to communicate, at the same time keeping up with infantry as his job, and so I make it a habit, every time I go in, to weigh the rucksack that I have. But that's not, coincidentally, not the heaviest ruck I have jumped into an operation with. I have jumped with a heavier rucksack than that in previous operations.
DR. WRIGHT: That's an interesting point because as I have talked to other individuals who are a part of the attachment package that goes with the infantry ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... they commented that infantrymen actually wind up jumping and going into combat with lighter loads than the attachments do.
CPT TAYLOR: That's true. That's exactly true.
DR. WRIGHT: Therefore, doubling up the pressure on you guys to be able to physically keep up with them?
CPT TAYLOR: No, it doesn't, because we already know this. I mean, we know that it's your job and consequently we train by doing more ruck marches, you know, more physical fitness. As you can see, I am rather large myself. And we train that way, as opposed to going out there and running ten miles on a flat surface, we go out there, we do ruck marches, we do those physical sorts of things, upper-body work, so that indeed we can keep up with infantry with the heavier rucks on.
So you will notice, if you go down and look at the artillerymen here, you will notice that your artillerymen are slightly bigger-built than the infantrymen. The infantrymen are, you know, rather lean, you know, so and so, whereas your artillerymen, the [Military Occupational Specialty] 13Fs, you'll notice are a little bulkier. So our training programs work on that.
DR. WRIGHT: What, more, say, a football player versus a marathon runner in body configuration?
CPT TAYLOR: Of course, it's a generalization. You can go down and find opposites, of course, in each unit. But I would say that is more so, because, you know, the football player, you know, has got to have the upper-body strength to be able to move, and we carry the large rucks. Whereas the infantry has got to do the three-second rushes, etc. So even though we're right there, we're training in different ways.
DR. WRIGHT: You sit over there in the PHA, and you start developing the plan, and you start getting briefed in ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... on the specific details. You start getting told it's Tinajitas?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. For 1/504. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you start at that point getting access to the intel[ligence] data, the overhead imagery and things like that?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the intel data is starting to come in, like I say, as soon as we get to the PHA and set up. I mentioned the soldiers going to the billets portion, us going to the staff. At that time, division is already starting to have their area set up, and corps. And so from the time we get in there, the intel is starting to flow. So in other words, we arrive there and we're getting visions of Panama from the objective to the drop zone is not that far. As a matter of fact, it was under twelve kilometers, you know, the entire distance. So we're starting to get intel. Pictures of the airport, pictures of the drop zone, pictures of our LZ [landing zone]--LZ LEOPARD where we went into. So we're starting to get that in a consistent, like I said, change in flow. So that started happening once we got there.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get a feeling that the information that was coming was accurate, that you were getting sufficient information, or did you start feeling uneasy because there were things from your perspective as an FSO that there were missing pieces of data that you didn't have that were starting to make you nervous?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. You know, as far as the complete picture, I was very comfortable with the images I was given. As a matter of fact, to be quite frank and not sound too arrogant, as a fire support officer, I am very comfortable with a map encircling which is the objective, which is the drop zone. Simply because, having done this for a while, I can take that and I can point out the areas in which things need to happen. So I thought the information flow was sufficient.
Excuse me one moment.
DR. WRIGHT: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Picking up again, CPT Taylor, if you could take me through now the target briefing process and how you start anticipating what the fire support requirements are going to be for Tinajitas.
CPT TAYLOR: O.K. That was very simple, actually, because we were given a list of the requirements to go in there hot. We were given the rules of engagement. And we were given authorization to once we got there--again, it was based on the rules of engagement. The rules of engagement said that we were to isolate, neutralize, and destroy. In other words, we were not to go in just blasting everything. So, based on that, I made the personal decision not to pre-target anything. The reason being that would give my guys, having done that so many times before, if they had got that target, it was habitual they want to go ahead and fire those things up.
And as a matter of fact, it turned out to be a real saving grace to keep under the rules of engagement, you know ... America's, you know, reluctance to go in there and, you know, have another Viet Nam. And I hate to use that term.
DR. WRIGHT: No, it's a tremendously different mind-set that we went into in JUST CAUSE versus what we went into in Viet Nam, where by, say, late war ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... you took a sniper round and you took the grid square off the map.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Versus this one, where everybody keeps telling me the rules of engagement were so clearly understood ...
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: ... that there was a reluctance on the part of soldiers even when it was O.K. under the rules of engagement ... if they felt there was any risk to innocent parties, they didn't want to fire.
CPT TAYLOR: That's exactly correct. And like I said, again the specific guidance was to isolate first, neutralize second, and then as a final last step there, to destroy. So, based on that, everyone found that we had individual shooting at us, as long as there were civilians around, we did not engage or return fire back. And this happened several times.
As a matter of fact, we'll refer to the story when we get into the actual Tinajitas happenings--we're actually seeing the mortars firing and we're looking at them through binoculars seeing them fire from 800 meters away, 120mm mortars, but did not engage because there were civilians, curious onlookers, you know, within 100 meters of there. And we had aircraft, you know, all around and we could easily call in an air strike, but did not simply because there were civilians there and we did want to injure those civilians.
DR. WRIGHT: As you get briefed on the target, the Tinajitas target, the danger there is those 120mm mortars.
CPT TAYLOR: That is our most significant danger. Exactly. Because that is an indirect fire system, that most of the time we could not possibly ... . So the anticipation was we weren't going to see them fire. Obviously, that turned out to be different. We were able to see them fire. But the small-arms factor, like I said, we had our whole task force available of infantrymen, and we figured that if we got into a fire fight with those guys, we'd be able to take them out. So we're trained to fight, trained to kill.
So my biggest threat from the fire support perspective, as I briefed the task force commander, "Sir, we're going to be getting hit by the 120mm mortars." We are briefed they did not have any artillery, no air, nothing like that. Our biggest threat was to be the 120mm mortars.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, these are French RO-120 mortars?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, something like that; they had varied designs. As a matter of fact, we ended up capturing all of them. Two were on top of Tinajitas when we got there. I went out with the commander on one patrol where we captured another one (based on intelligence from the people down there). And also we destroyed one through an air strike where we got some good data and the rules of engagement were clear, and so we destroyed them.
DR. WRIGHT: As I have been told by LTC [Larry D.] Gottardi, that 120[mm] mortar will out-range an M-102.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, it will. It's a larger caliber, I mean, just by the 120mm versus the 105mm. Yes, it does have a greater range.
DR. WRIGHT: And reaching all the way out to Tinajitas, you are initially going to be beyond the direct support range for what, I guess it was Alpha Battery [Battery A, 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery]?
CPT TAYLOR: Of Alpha Battery that dropped in, exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: So you're out there knowing then in the initial couple of hours the strong probability is you will not have tube artillery fires to direct, it will be mostly aerial fires that you'll be directing?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. As a matter of fact, that makes no difference to me because I am the fire support officer, the coordinator of all indirect fire support as well as just being the artillery liaison officer. And a lot of people don't understand that difference. Like I said, I am not just the artillery liaison officer. We knew going in there we were going to have [AH-64] Apache helicopters as well as, you know, [AC-130] Specter gunship and A-37s [Dragonflies]. I felt quite confident, with that amount of air armament, that we'd have more than enough to take care of any enemy we would encounter out there.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you anticipate anything from their armored wheeled vehicles, the V-150s and the V-300s, or were you fairly confident they wouldn't be up there?
CPT TAYLOR: We were fairly confident they would not be up there, based on the intelligence briefings prior to mission cycle we received; that they would be located basically with the Battalion 2000, etc., those units, and not with the elements there at Tinajitas.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you start moving out of the PHA and heading over to start loading out?
CPT TAYLOR: We started loading out, that was the evening of the 19th is when we physically left the PHA going out towards Green Ramp [at Pope Air Force Base]. That was the evening of the 19th.
DR. WRIGHT: About what hour?
CPT TAYLOR: I would say it was about--let's see, we jumped in at 02, it was a six-hour flight, we took off at 8:00 P.M.]. And so it was just a couple of hours before that, I think.
DR. WRIGHT: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Anyway, getting on, if you could sort of take me through now as you walk out of PHA, I take it you walked rather than run?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we walked all the way from the PHA over to Green Ramp with all of our stuff. Indeed, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: What was your impression of that movement? Did anything strike you as different from a normal EDRE?
CPT TAYLOR: That was very different, as a matter of fact, because normally, even when we went from the PHA to Green Ramp, we always rode, like I said, the 80-passenger vehicles. But this time we walked over there and we figured, well, we didn't really place any significance upon that fact other than here we are walking over to PHA. But that struck me as a definite departure from the standard operating procedure when we are normally in the PHA.
So we walked over to the PHA and we had rampside issue of parachutes, and then somebody made the decision that we need to go ahead and 'chute up on the aircraft because it was sleeting, it was cold, it was raining. We were told at that time we were going to go into Panama--we had already been told that--to take off all of our snivel gear, which is the items we have on to keep us warm when it's cold. And it's polypro[plyene] top shirts and shorts everybody had on. Stuffed those in your butt pack and then 'chute up on the aircraft.
So the only difference that stuck out was the fact that we walked to the PHA. But that didn't strike us as being significant, you know, when it's departure from the norm.
DR. WRIGHT: What about the noise level and the, you know, I guess the general clowning around the troops would normally do? I have had a number of people tell me that the most salient observation they had on that whole thing was that it was deathly quiet.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, no, not our group. I guess because, you know, and this is one of the things that I guess had us de-stressed going in, is that we, you know, we were a tight-knit group in the 1/504. As a matter of a fact, when you start interviewing the guys and go in there ... you just saw, you know, 1LT Rob White there. [NOTE: During the interruption, 1LT White had entered to room to discuss a current issue with CPT Taylor.] We're a tight-knit group and we're so comfortable and so satisfied with how proficient we are--again not to sound arrogant--but indeed it may be that we joke and clown around all the time. As a matter of fact, you know, [on] mass tacs we joke around, "I'm No. 1 jumper." I'm joking and, you know, laughing with the guys next to us. And even going into Panama it was the same thing.
So this to us, you know, because of that tightness that we had before, realizing that we had done so many successful missions, that this was just another opportunity to demonstrate our proficiency to the rest of the world, to those guys on the outside who do not normally see us, we were having a great time. As a matter of fact, drawing ammo we were joking, said, "Yeah, yeah, I'm going to go in like John Wayne," etc., etc., etc. So we still had that looseness, you know, going in, as far as the 1/504.
DR. WRIGHT: And you attribute .... you referenced the de-stressing, you attribute that to keeping the stress levels down, it's just a tension-breaking thing and you're offloading emotion by doing that sort of stuff?
CPT TAYLOR: I'd say that, but not in the regard that you associate the fact that we were laughing and joking with our attempt to isolate or limit the stress, on the fact that indeed we do that all the time is what I am saying. So consequently, where some units, you know, they're so tight, they're so keyed, you know, based on whatever reason, that they go into that and use that as an escape, we're like this all the time. We're always laughing, joking. As a matter of fact, operations orders down at 1/504 are indeed a show. You have officers coming in the back just watching because we have a great time. Very proficient, but we have a great time. You know, as a matter of fact, they're called demonstrations more so than operations orders. We do that all the time habitually in the 1/504. So it's not anything special.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that something that LTC Marable ... is sort of his signature for his battalion versus other battalions?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, you know, BG [Joseph W.] Kinzer, you know, last year in the EXEVAL [external evaluation] in 1989, asked me why is it or what is it that has 1/504 so special as far--he was referring to specifically the relationship of fire support and maneuver because we're such a tight, intertwined, you know, work so well together. And I said, "Hey, sir, you know, it's just the fact that, you know, we know we are a hot-to-trot battalion and we know this, we know we're the division's best, you know, in our minds' anyway, and so we will go out there as a demonstration for us to do that."
And I'd say ... you said LTC Marable's signature. LTC Marable had been at command for two months prior to that. He just took command on October 10th as a matter of fact. As I recall standing out at Stang Field. It was a tribute, that I would say, to LTC Robert Killibrew. LT[C] Killibrew is the one who started that, the fact that, you know, we're so proficient. He'd chew us down to the point when we started out, and then we got to the point where we accepted his standards, knew what that was, and we all reached that standard, and he kept us there. So we knew we were good, and consequently that transferred itself to how we interacted with one another. Like I said, we're a tight-knit group, but yet we had a lot of fun while doing it.
DR. WRIGHT: Other people have commented that it was extremely cold going through the sleet over to the aircraft, and they noticed ice forming on people's gear and stuff like that. Did you observe anything like that?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, I did not notice any ice forming on the gear or something like that. I noticed it was raining. It was sleeting, you know. Perhaps dripping off of us. But that wasn't the first time for us, you know. I don't know if you've been to interview the infantry units yet. But for us it's not the first time that we've walked in the rain and the snow and the sleet and this sort of thing. And I am not trying to ... again, getting back to our training, we've done that so much. In [Camp] Mackal we got snowed in, iced in, I mean, we've been out there, you know, in the field in the cold and wet before because we train that way habitually.
For some units, and I am adding my personal interjection here, you know, perhaps some of the engineers or some of the other guys who may have just gone on this jump because they figured it was good for a combat patch, you know, that they were not used to that. They're not used to training that way. They spend their time in the warm environs, and when they find out it's for real, they want to go on it. So for those guys, of course it's going to be different. But for us it was: hey, just another walk with the infantry.
DR. WRIGHT: Which aircraft did you get on, what chalk number?
CPT TAYLOR: Chalk 4. I was on Chalk number 4.
DR. WRIGHT: And what side of the aircraft and what number in the stick?
CPT TAYLOR: I was right door, number eleven.
DR. WRIGHT: Who else do you remember seeing in the ... sitting in the immediate area with you during that flight down?
CPT TAYLOR: In the immediate area, as a matter of fact, MAJ [Jonathan] Chase, the S-3 for 2/504.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We were cross-loaded on [Chalks] 3 through 6.
CPT TAYLOR: Check. And like I said, I was on Chalk 4. But MAJ Chase who was the S-3 of 2/504 was in that vicinity. They had 2/504 cross-loaded ahead of us. I was the first jumper out of the right door for 1/504, as I normally am. And of course, LTC Marable, the task force commander, was sitting right across from me. He was in number--like I said, number eleven jumper (somewhere around in that area) out the left door. So we were opposite each other, being the first individuals from 1/504 to exit the aircraft in combat.
DR. WRIGHT: You chute up in the aircraft, loose rig?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we did. We loose-rigged on the aircraft. And of course, we hooked up on our rucks at three hours out.
DR. WRIGHT: The rigging of the chutes in your aircraft was slightly different than in normal exercise?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed. But it was only slightly. The only thing ... normally, of course, everything is safety-oriented. We still jumped with the reserves, even though we knew they were going to jump at the 500 feet. But we did not put the safety wire on the static line snap hook, nor did we have the safety wire on the reserve. But otherwise, other than that, that was the only thing. We just didn't have the safety wire and the static line snap hook or the safety wire on the reserve. Other than that, it was normal procedures.
DR. WRIGHT: How long did you sit in the aircraft before you take off?
CPT TAYLOR: Shoot, I can't really remember per se. After we 'chuted up, I don't think we really sat on the aircraft before we started taxiing. Maybe it was under an hour. I don't know, forty-five, fifty minutes, something like that.
DR. WRIGHT: When you took off, did you have any knowledge that all twenty aircraft, all twenty of the C-141s, were not lifting off simultaneously?
CPT TAYLOR: No, I did not. As a matter of fact, it was not until about ... once we got there. As a matter of fact, even after we got on the ground. We jumped in at 02. We went in with the first wave in from the 82d. And we took--it took us three hours to get to the airfield. And I still saw C-141s flying overhead the whole time. I did not know who this was at that time. And it was not until we actually linked up, and this was in the middle of the day of Wednesday that I found out that all twenty aircraft did not take off at the same time.
DR. WRIGHT: About a four-and-a-half, five-hour flight down?
CPT TAYLOR: No, it was about a six-hour flight, as I recall.
DR. WRIGHT: What was it like in the aircraft as you come down? People sleeping, people joking, talking? Did you have access to water other than your own canteens?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. The Air Force had water there. But just like on any flight for experienced paratroopers, the first thing you do, of course, you keep your Kevlar [helmet] on until you get up in the air. And then once you do that, you go to sleep, because it's fantastic sleep time. And it's the same ... as a matter of fact, we just had a jump this Friday night--the same thing. Once we got up in the air, Kevlar is off, and we went to sleep. So there was no ... we normally don't bullskate because that is our time for sleep. And we did the same thing there. We got up in the air, took the Kevlars off and just went to sleep and got some rest.
DR. WRIGHT: Everybody still pretty relaxed, seem pretty good?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You don't notice anything unusual?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, no. Like I say, everybody's, you know, got the same look, you know, pretty relaxed. You can see it in their eyes. If there's anything, you can look in the eyes. You can tell, you know, they have a little higher intensity. Like they're going over in their minds, and I know I was doing, exactly the actions that they would do from leaving the aircraft on the ground. I know I was doing that, leaving the aircraft, static line to the safety, you know, feet widely spread, [hands] on the reserve, feet and knees together, you only have 500 feet. So I was going over in my mind, like I do all the time, what I am going to be doing.
You can look in the eyes of the guys and see that they were determined. They were biting their jaw, giving that intensity of the operation they were about to participate in. So, if anything, I saw a greater intensity of concentration, but nothing that would deviate from the norm as far as degree of motivation.
DR. WRIGHT: All the weapons were in the jump cases?
CPT TAYLOR: The M-1950s.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. The M-16s, the [M-249] SAWs [squad automatic weapons], M-60s [machine guns] indeed were. Of course, as, you know, jumping a 9mm, that's just in the holster, you know. Of course, it's secured. But, yes, the weapons were not exposed in the 82d, they were in the 1950s cases.
DR. WRIGHT: With your 9mm, do you have a lanyard for that?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, I did.
DR. WRIGHT: And how did you secure the lanyard? Where did you secure the end of the lanyard to?
CPT TAYLOR: It was secured to the top of the back of my LCE. In other words, right above the butt pack, so that in case a weapon fell out or in case my entire lower part of my LCE came off, then the lanyard would hold the 9mm on there. So that was secured to the upper portion of my LCE.
DR. WRIGHT: You get the 'stand-up, hook-up' ten minutes out?
CPT TAYLOR: We got the get-ready and all that sort of stuff at ten minutes out, yes, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: When did they open the doors?
CPT TAYLOR: They opened the doors normal time. It was about three minutes out to open the doors.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point, do you realize that you are in the tropics?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, indeed. Not only in the tropics, because you could feel the heat and the humidity come in, particularly after having left Fort Bragg, but we were still over the ocean at--you know, we had still--at three minutes out, we were still like this, getting ready to make that climb. So, yes, we're in the tropics, and over--well, it was the ocean, but at that time it was just a large body of water. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So you could see out a window?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. See out the window and the door. You could just look out. The door was right there and say, "Hmm, there's water out there."
DR. WRIGHT: You jump about 0200?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. It was about 0215 or something like that.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have a chance to check a watch or anything to try to fix that, the time, in your mind?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. You know, I looked at the watch at 02, and we had not gotten there yet because the original drop time was to have been 0200. So I looked at the watch, and you know, we were still hooked up at that time, and it was within the next five or ten minutes after that, like I said. So it was between 02 and 0210-15 when we actually jumped out.
DR. WRIGHT: Go out the door ... what do you see as you go through the door?
CPT TAYLOR: As I am going out the door? Well, first of all, the door is open. You could hear the blasts in the background; small-arms fire, you know; you could see a few tracers, you know, green and red.
DR. WRIGHT: Both colors?
CPT TAYLOR: By the door. Green and red, both colors, going by the door. And I am saying, "Hmm, O.K.." You could see this going out the door. The jumpmaster turned and said, "O.K., gentlemen, the doors are hot." He said that. And I said, "Whoa, airborne!" You know. [LAUGHTER] O.K. And so you could see the green and red tracers going out. You could hear [SIMULATED SOUNDS OF WEAPONS FIRING], you know. Portions of the Ranger fire fight still going on down there. And going out the door, you could still see that because we had 500 feet. We jumped to the north and the east of the runway, where we were supposed to have jumped, but we could look out there and see the green and red tracers as well as hear the activities of the Ranger battalion engaged on the ground.
DR. WRIGHT: As you exit the door, can you orient yourself? Is there enough moonlight, for example, to see where you are and orient yourself as you come out the door and say, "O.K., we're dropping 100 meters off of where I thought we were going to jump," or something like that?
CPT TAYLOR: There was enough light, like I said, with the activity that were going on, and the moonlight was there, to orient myself to the fact that we were a ways from the airfield. In other words, I as able to see that we were to the east. And I couldn't tell how far north, you know, because the runway went ... it was in two different parts, and basically a civilian/military airport, and the tower in the middle. But I could definitely tell that we were way north of the airfield and to the east, simply because we were coming down over the swamp and not the airfield, and the fact that I could hear all the shooting over here, you know.
I turned. I did a one-riser slip in the air, looked towards the airport, and I said, "Hmm, we're obviously off." And that's how I was able to orient myself because I knew the alignment, the runway and the tower on the other side, that the runway was on the east side of the actual buildings. So I was able to determine, you know, where we were on the ground at that time.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you see any burning buildings on the ground?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we saw some buildings that looked like ... on the runway that were, you know, flaming, you know, so to speak.
DR. WRIGHT: Up at the north end of the runway?
CPT TAYLOR: No, the southern end. This was down at the southern end. At the very southern end it looked like there was a building there that, you know, was still ablaze. There was some sort of fire and smoke coming from there.
DR. WRIGHT: Was the international terminal still lighted?
CPT TAYLOR: I could not say that.
DR. WRIGHT: You could not see it?
CPT TAYLOR: I could not determine that. I could not ... at that time I don't know which one was the international terminal per se. I just jumped in. And I knew there were two airports, one civilian, one military, and that the actual buildings were on the westward side of that. So I could not determine which one.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have any problems with your 'chute and your equipment on the jump, or did it all go ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: No. As a matter of fact, it was one of the sweetest jumps I have had. I had a few twists, but that's kind of normal, you know. Jumped out of the aircraft and did not have any problems with the equipment whatsoever. No.
DR. WRIGHT: Got your rucksack lowered O.K.?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Rucksack was lowered O.K.. 'Chute was good to go; you know "1000, 2000, 3000, 4000," it was there. And then about half a second later ... [it] was that close to lowering the rucksack. So that all worked very well. No problems at all.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Take me through your arrival on ground.
CPT TAYLOR: On the ground. O.K. From the air, it looked like ... well, it looked like sort of a grassy area. O.K.
DR. WRIGHT: And that's what you had been briefed from the overhead imagery on the drop zone, that you were going into what looked like grass?
CPT TAYLOR: No. We were briefed we were going to land on the runway. The intent was we were going to jump on the runway to the south, while the Ranger battalion was still mopping up to the north. You know, based on the intelligence. Obviously, that all got modified somehow. [LAUGHTER] But no, it looked like it was a grassy area from the air, you know. It didn't look like any trees; you know, little shrubs, perhaps a few bushes, that sort of thing. We said, O.K., sure, no problem, no need to, you know, get ready for a tree landing.
As it turned out, that shrub area was in high elephant grass. So as I came down and went into the swamp, I looked up and saw the elephant grass fifteen to twenty feet over my head. So the initial feeling was one of sort of isolation because I could not see anybody else. So my first reaction, you know ... immediately, you know, cut both canopy releases on my parachute, put my weapon in operation. And I just laid there, just, you know, just alert ... just laid dog[go]. And just listened to what was going on. I could still hear the fighting, but I could start to hear guys moving. So at that time my feelings were of isolation; Had nobody around me. So I put my stuff in operation right there and I just waited, you know, by my rucksack, didn't even put my radio in operation yet. I wanted to see what was going on.
So then I heard a soldier creeping, or what I thought was a soldier creeping, gave him the challenge. He responded with a positive one. He came forward, and then at that time we linked up.
DR. WRIGHT: Challenge and response was what?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, I can't ...
DR. WRIGHT: Do you remember at all?
CPT TAYLOR: "Whiplash-Sounder," I think it was, or something like that. I can't really recall.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have multiple means of identification? In other words, a running password and a number password and things like that, or ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we did. We had multiples. We had the basic combination, which was "Whiplash" or something like that. I recall one part of that being "Whiplash." I don't know if that was the challenge or the response, now (like I said) four months later. And then also there was a running password that we all had with the Rangers as well as a combination of flashes on the flashlight. So we did have multiple challenges and responses.
DR. WRIGHT: You were to assemble with the 1st of the '04 CP [command post]?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: What was their assembly area marking device?
CPT TAYLOR: Their assembly marking device was going to be the white Stiner aid. In other words, that's where we were to assemble on as far as HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company]. That was going to be a white Stiner aid out there as the drop zone.
DR. WRIGHT: You hear the one soldier, you challenge him. Who does it turn out to be?
CPT TAYLOR: It turns out to be an engineer sergeant. As a matter of fact, coincidentally enough, just two weeks ago we had a get-together out at Barton's Landing, a twenty-keg party, and he came up to me and said, "Hey, sir, you CPT Taylor? I was that ... your first squad leader that you met out there in Panama." So here it was, and, you know, we embraced and looked at each other, you know, with that fondness that, you know, guys that meet in the dark and help each other out. But, yes, I met him again just two weeks ago.
DR. WRIGHT: In this process of identifying, are you concerned as you realize that 'oh, boy, we're in deep grass and it's going to be very difficult to visually ID [identify] anybody,' do you become concerned at all about the possibility of fratricide?
CPT TAYLOR: No, not really, because I felt that, you know, the guys were disciplined enough--this is my opinion--that as we're going out there and they did a very good job of that. I was stopped a few times myself and gathered guys, and I stopped some other guys. So I thought that, based on the discipline and that, I didn't feel that that would be a problem whatsoever.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you hear any Spanish being spoken as you maneuver through the grass to get out to the airfield?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, we did. It turned out to be one of the PSYOPS [psychological operations] stations right there, because we were that far north. They were telling the guys who were fighting the Ranger battalion to surrender. And at first, we were going to ID Ranger guys; you know two fire teams we were going to be the heroes and go and take it out. But then, you know, from each transmission (and this is what stopped us), from each transmission there was a large generator noise. And I am thinking, based on the intelligence, that the Panamanians, they don't have that, that's got to be our PSYOPS guys, you know.
And then I talked to one of the guys that happened to speak a little Spanish. [He] said, "Hey, sir, you know, they're saying 'give up, surrender.'" [And I] said, "O.K., fine." Then we went ahead; I withdrew my guys; went back to the defense line, and continued south towards our rendezvous.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. As you start making your way through the grass ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... how do you maneuver? You're a large individual.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: That grass is not just elephant grass, there's a lot of bamboo and whatnot in it, and it's fairly tough going to cut through.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, it is. Well, there wasn't any need to cut through, as a matter of fact. What we did, I used for navigation ... I had a compass and we jumped to the north and to the east, and so we figured we had to go due south. And so what I did was ... there was a fence there, we landed on the eastern side of the large fence. So I knew we had to go to the west and then to the south.
So I maneuvered up to the fence and had the guys ... and then we just followed that fence line due south. So it was pretty easy navigation. There was one point there where it got so thick we had to cut through--going to the other side--and resume our route. But it was not that bad. Of course, it was strenuous and we were laboring (don't get me wrong) but it was not to the point where we actually had to slice any bamboo or take out the machete. It was just going through the elephant grass, you know, and the sogging swamp, you know, very tiring. But we had a mission and we were determined to make it.
DR. WRIGHT: Did anybody actually have a machete that you linked up with?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, they did. One of the guys I ended up leading, being the senior man. There was myself and another captain (our ALO [air liaison officer], thank goodness, who had contact with the Air Force), and fifteen other guys; a total of seventeen men that I, as a senior officer, led through that. And, yes, some of them did have machetes, and some of the engineers had machetes.
DR. WRIGHT: So you had pretty much the standard approach of cross-loading. Therefore, when you get on the ground and assemble, you have a range of talents and a range of expertise you can call on to make it to that assembly area then?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. But it was just fortunate because in this particular instance, obviously the plan initially had kind of gone to pot, it was just a happy coincidence that the guys I linked up with, one happened to have been an engineer. Not only did he have a machete but he also had ...
DR. WRIGHT: Bolt cutters?
CPT TAYLOR: He had bolt cutters. [LAUGHTER] It was just a happy coincidence that that happened in that particular way.
DR. WRIGHT: So then when it came time to get through the fence, you didn't have to climb over it, you just simply ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: I called up the engineer and have him go ahead and slice it open, and he sliced it open with, you know, his bolt cutters. We crossed and sliced it open again and went back to the other side. So, yes, it worked out very well.
DR. WRIGHT: How long did it take you to make it to the fence?
CPT TAYLOR: To the fence? Oh, it didn't take much time at all to make it to the fence. From the time we dropped in till we got to the fence, I'd say within the first thirty minutes.
DR. WRIGHT: And that was a distance of about how far?
CPT TAYLOR: That wasn't far. Again, the fence was so far out, the fence was still a great distance, you know, from the airfield. You know, if there's an airfield, you know, you have a fence at the edge after the grass and all that sort of stuff. So the fence, from the time we dropped in to the fence, it was only about fifteen [to] twenty minutes, I'd say.
DR. WRIGHT: And then to get from ... once you get through the fence to the assembly area, it takes a couple of hours?
CPT TAYLOR: Three hours. It took three hours, because I remember looking at the watch, and it was like 5:17. It was 5:17 by the time we got there. I said, "Gee, that took us three hours."
DR. WRIGHT: At that point, did you feel that possibly you had missed the [helicopter] lift, or were you fairly confident that this was one of those things where the timetable was slipping for everybody?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the thing I was listening to, because having been on many air assault operations before--and we were briefed it was going to be ten helicopters. The sound of ten helicopters is quite distinct. And when everybody had their mission to make it out there, and I never heard any large groupings of [UH-60] Blackhawks. So I was confident that the lift had not gone, so that we're ... indeed, you know, there had been slip somehow.
So I never heard the Blackhawks. That's what I kept listening for. So I told everybody ... some of the soldiers, you know how the privates and sergeants are, going "Hey, I've got to be there. I've got to be there. My lieutenant or my higher sergeant is going to kick me in the butt." I said, "Don't worry about it. You haven't heard the Blackhawks." And that kind of comforted the guys down, and we were able to get out there. So I never heard the Blackhawks, so that didn't bother me.
DR. WRIGHT: You did hear other helicopters, though?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. There was some Task Force 160 or some special op[eration]s helicopters that were flying all around. But we were briefed they'd be there. So I told the guys, you know, "don't shoot at them." You know, "just watch them fly overhead." Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You arrive at the assembly point. How do you stand in terms of the assembly of the 1st of the '04? Are you one of the first people there or one of the last people there, or ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: When I get there, I am one of the first guys to get there. We were going to assemble without the company. I got there, and the senior man there at that time was CPT Thompson, who was the Assistant S-3. At that time, I said, this is combat, there is nobody else here, and, you know, I made ... I didn't make the decision, but I said, "You know, hey, Bert Thompson, you know, you're the senior infantryman here, you're now the task force commander here, I am the FSO, etc. We need to go ahead and drive on."
As it turned out, the others started to filter in later. Then we linked up with the commander, I'd say, about an hour after that, further down the airstrip. So I was one of the first to actually get there to that actual assembly point.
DR. WRIGHT: About how long does it take you to hit, what is it, I guess, seventy percent ... is it seventy percent or eighty percent assembled that is considered ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, you know, we have the different things. But fifty, you know fifty percent; you have your different, you know, levels of assembly there. Actually getting to that point that ... because we weren't on the air assault, I can't verify exactly what the percentages were. We got our guys up, got them on the helicopters. There were some guys, a large percentage of the task force, who never went nor was it their intent to go out with the companies--for example, the scouts and the logistics--because their plan was to have them in the convoy going out there.
DR. WRIGHT: The ground element ...
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: ... that was coming on.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. So, in other words, we got out there and what we had on the helicopters ... we were told to go ... and so we went out there with that group.
DR. WRIGHT: Well, what time do you lift off?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, this was in the morning. Let's see, it took three hours to get to the airfield, about another hour later linked up with colonel. An hour after that ... I'd say it was about 8:00 in the morning by the time we lift off going on the air assault into Tinajitas.
DR. WRIGHT: Ten Blackhawks?
CPT TAYLOR: No, that got cut down. What happened was, they went in, the first lift into Panama City, with 2/504. They got shot up a little bit, and the pilots had a discussion about doing this again. Apparently there was some discussion. They did not want to do it again. They were convinced otherwise, however. But two of the Blackhawks had been rendered unserviceable, based on the enemy fire. So we went in, I think it was, seven or eight Blackhawks. So the initial lift number got cut down.
DR. WRIGHT: How long did they sit? I guess they picked you up on the runway itself?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they did.
DR. WRIGHT: Or did they pick you up by the taxiway?
CPT TAYLOR: No, they picked us up right there on the runway, the runway itself.
DR. WRIGHT: About how long did they sit and loiter on the ground while you loaded up?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, once the aircraft actually sat down, it didn't take very long at all. They sat down at ... it took about five minutes, I'd say, because there was still some discussion going on. They sat down. They were talking about this, that, and the other. So about five minutes from the time they sat down until the time they lifted off with us on it.
DR. WRIGHT: Seats out?
CPT TAYLOR: Seats were totally out, yes. Twenty-six paratroopers.
DR. WRIGHT: And had you ever practiced this before?
CPT TAYLOR: We had practiced it once.
DR. WRIGHT: Static?
CPT TAYLOR: Once. Yes, it was a static practice. We practiced that one time prior to doing that. But it's amazing how when an actual situation comes, how proficient one becomes. [LAUGHTER] When they know the intensity of the situation. But that was the first time we actually did that no seats, actual liftoff with paratroopers inside.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. At that point, based on the firing that had taken place at Panama Viejo ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... do you assume that you're going into a hot LZ?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we kind of assumed that. Kind of thought it was going to be hot going in, yes. But that fact never really entered our minds per se. Again, at this time, you know, we're still kind of sleepy, etc., tired from the walk, and figuring, well, we're going to be doing air assault, not --quote, unquote--you know, thinking it was going to be a hot LZ.
DR. WRIGHT: As you come in now ... you lift off. Do you have, can you see any armed escort?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, we can. We can see the Apaches that, you know, are flying alongside us that are going out there.
DR. WRIGHT: How many did you have?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, I was out the left door, looking out the left door, and I was able to see two Apaches. I was on the second helicopter on the first lift.
DR. WRIGHT: And where was the colonel?
CPT TAYLOR: The colonel was sitting right next to me. As a matter of fact, I was sitting here behind the pilot and the colonel was sitting between the two, you know, so that he could actually see as we're navigating. I am able to look out the door to see where we're going. He could see where we were going forward.
DR. WRIGHT: How was the flight conducted to get from pickup zone out to the LZ?
CPT TAYLOR: As far as?
DR. WRIGHT: High, low; did you jink, did you fly straight?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, it was a pretty straight route. To tell you quite honestly, sitting out the left side, you know, going towards Panama City, based on the LZ, my view was of Panama City. You know, the guys sitting on the right side were looking to the countryside.
But my first reactions were how beautiful the sight looked. I could see the ships in the Panama Canal, you know, getting ready to go out that had been stopped. But I could see some smoke rising from Panama City and saying, "Well, that's kind of weird." But I was looking at this metropolitan area, the skyrises and everything, and said, "Wow, that's a pretty sight, you know."
DR. WRIGHT: And you're talking shortly after ... well, what, about two hours after sunrise at this point?
CPT TAYLOR: Right. Exactly. About 8:00. So it's, you know, very bright, you know, the sun is shining on the water, brilliant; the ships lined up at the Panama Canal, you know; the skyscrapers, you know; this ...
DR. WRIGHT: Welcome to the tropics.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. But what was wrong with this picture, I could see the aircraft over Panama City too, and I said "the thing's smoking," and I'm saying, "Hmm, you know, that's a pretty intense picture there, you know." So I was seeing that, but the route we took, we made the U-turn right there on the runway. We took off we made the angle towards our LZ, and we went in pretty straight.
DR. WRIGHT: What height?
CPT TAYLOR: I'd say we were about, you know, 500 to 800 feet. We were fairly ... you know, relatively low going in.
DR. WRIGHT: Up above small arms, up above effective small arms?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as it turned out, we were not, because once we got to the LZ ... . And then my first thought was, something started to sound like popcorn, you know, the tic-tic-tic-tic thing. What that was, it was rounds bouncing off our helicopter. So we were definitely within small-arms range, and as a matter of fact, the helicopter never sat down. We had the cargo strapped. The crew chief started blasting with a [M]-60. The Apache, I remember, was blasting into the mountain with rockets and also with a mini-gun.
And I am saying, "Airborne!" As a matter of fact, to this date I kiss every Apache pilot I see because I believe that is what suppressed those guys long enough for us to get in alive, because they had our number. They were right there. The LZ was right across 300 meters from a hill, and the guys are shooting at us. So they had our number. The Apaches is what stopped them there.
So the crew chief started blasting with a [M]-60, told us to get the cargo strap and get out. And we jumped from a height of about thirty feet.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you ... from a height of about 30 feet?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Into the elephant grass, yes. We jumped from the helicopter. The helicopter never sat down or got close to setting down. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that your impression that all the people exited the aircraft that way?
CPT TAYLOR: All the people from my helicopter exited that way, I know. We were in the second helicopter. As a matter of fact, Rob White said he was on the first helicopter when it got hit, he said they actually sat down on the first lift of the first helicopter. But we did not. And as it turned out, some other helicopters sat down, some did not. It was just a matter of ...
DR. WRIGHT: Each individual aircraft commander's decision?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. But ours did not set down, and we exited, like I say, I called it the Papillon leap, you know, and jumped out there fully exposed, me, you know, six feet five, you know, facing toward the enemy, down into the creek bed of the elephant grass. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: This is now your second exposure to the elephant grass. At this point are you becoming a little disenchanted with the local flora of Panama?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, let's just say that my happiness level was not quite pegged. Indeed, I could have been in a more happier state. But, yes, indeed, it was somewhat frustrating.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you notice any of the infantrymen firing while they were on the helicopter, or did they leave it to the door gunners?
CPT TAYLOR: On our helicopter they did not fire. I understand on other helicopters they did. When our helicopter, like I say, once it went into the LZ, everybody had their weapons at the ready, etc., the door gunner fired but nobody on our helicopter fired outside.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have a chance to notice what happened to the helicopters after you jump off?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, no. As a matter of fact, once we get into the grass and we're still receiving fire, I mean it's coming through the grass, so we're all in the prone, weapons facing towards the enemy, and so the helicopters at that time, they go off. None of them got shot down. I understand they received some more rounds and a couple more were rendered unserviceable based on that particular LZ.
DR. WRIGHT: You assemble up, and do you have coordinates on where you went in?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we have the coordinates for the LZ. However, based on being inserted into the elephant grass, weren't able to get exact coordinates until we had started moving out about another 300-400 feet. We got up on the side of the hill so that we can actually have some sort of relationship.
When we're in the elephant grass by the creek, you cannot see anything other than that. So we got up a little bit. I knew which direction we were, you know, the general vicinity. But we were not able to get the coordinates, you know, once we got up about, you know, another 300 feet. Then we're able to see, O.K., there's a tower there, O.K., there's a hilltop there, and that's the road, etc. Then we were able to see all right.
DR. WRIGHT: So then you orient yourself.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Exactly. And that didn't take very long at all.
DR. WRIGHT: As I understand it, the attack planned for the operation was one rifle company to fix the front of the hill, two rifle companies to maneuver around the flanks?
CPT TAYLOR: That's the basic plan, yes. But it turned out to be just a tad different from that, based on the terrain. Even with the maps we were provided, it did not indicate the steepness, you know, of the terrain. And so it ended up being, you know, one company going up, like I said before, with tremendous air coverage. Again, you know, having that confidence in our air, they went up there, they pounded the objective. It turned out not many of the guys were left, and so we were able to do that basically one company at a time. The terrain was incredibly steep.
DR. WRIGHT: Which company went straight up the hill?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we all did. As a matter of fact, Alpha Company, Charlie, and Bravo. Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie all went basically straight up the hill, indeed to the highest point, the highest tower. And then we came down as a matter of fact, to the actual P.D.F. headquarters in the barracks.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. As you move up the hill, you're moving right with LTC Marable?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Right next to LTC Marable.
DR. WRIGHT: And the ALO is with you?
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed. As a matter of fact, we had two. We had two captains. We were fortunate to have that CPT Freisner and also CPT Lucia. So we have both of those guys right there with us where the dirt was.
DR. WRIGHT: And how do you spell their names?
CPT TAYLOR: O.K. Freisner is F-r-e-i-s-n-e-r. And Lucia is L-u-c-i-a. As a matter of fact, I've got his address written down in here. But he's down in; he's stationed at Charlotte Air Force Base.
DR. WRIGHT: He or she?
CPT TAYLOR: He.
DR. WRIGHT: He. Yes. I was going to say I assumed they were all he's.
CPT TAYLOR: They were all he's, indeed. Indeed. Yes, but they're both stationed down in Charlotte Air Force Base. And of course, there was TSGT Phillips also, who was the EFAC with us, and he's stationed right here at Pope.
DR. WRIGHT: And what's the EFAC?
CPT TAYLOR: The enlisted forward air controller.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.
CPT TAYLOR: He basically does the same job, but he just happens to be an enlisted man. And he also was going up the hill with us.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. All of you have radio com[munication]s from the time you're inserted?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. I have radio comms from the time we get on the ground, like I said. Going into, I am talking to the guys around the airfield, at the airfield. And I have contact with my FIST teams once we get inserted into the LZ. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And they have contact with the air assets, the ALOs?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed. They go ... as a matter of fact, we actually called in missions while we're going up the hill to suppress the hilltop objective. So they were talking to the aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. What assets did you have to control at that specific moment? You had your Apache?
CPT TAYLOR: At that specific point?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: The Apaches were still under "brigade control," suppressing, like I said, as far as the air insertions, and they went back ... were not under our control.
DR. WRIGHT: They then accompanied or escorted the ...
CPT TAYLOR: The helicopters. Right. Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: The helicopters back.
CPT TAYLOR: So the Apaches are out of the picture now. What we had, we had the AC-130 gunships and we had A-37[s]--two aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: One or two AC-130s?
CPT TAYLOR: We had one Spectre that I know of. There may have been two. But we had multiple A-37s.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. And those are the little Dragonflies?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they are. That's them.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have any of the A-7s [Crusader II]? There were four A-7s there.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, there were, but we did not have the A-7s going up to Tinajitas. They came up there later--I think Day Two. As a matter of fact, they were flying convoy security. But we did have the A-7s like from Day Two forward. On the actual assault up the hill, we had A-37s and Spectre.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you remember any call signs?
CPT TAYLOR: The call signs? As a matter of fact ... what were some of the call signs? You mean the call signs of the aircraft?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: Sure. "Painter." They were all Painter. They were something Painter, because our guys were calling in "the painter." As a matter of fact, I don't recall them specifically, but Rick Freisner or Dave Lucia, if you were to contact them, they'd be able to give you the call signs.
I do understand, though, that one of the A-7 pilots was on Good Morning America [the ABC Network morning TV Magazine show], and based on his call sign, Rick Freisner identified that as the guy he had been talking to there at Tinajitas. Yes. So it was one of those strange coincidences.
DR. WRIGHT: Nice little neat things.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, it was.
DR. WRIGHT: What about Spectre, do you remember what his call sign was?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Spectre was ... shoot, I don't remember what his call sign was either. It was one of those in the same regard, but I can't recall what his call sign was.
DR. WRIGHT: No comms problems at all on that morning?
CPT TAYLOR: Not in terms of with us. We didn't have any. On the infantry side they had severe comms problems. As a matter of fact, it turned out that the battalion commander and the S-3 were able to find out what the companies were doing by talking, or having me to talk, to the FIST. The battalion commander's two RTOs [radio telephone operators], neither one of them made it up the hill. You know, one didn't make it to the helicopter for the LZ and the other one got injured. You know, not saying anything, but the fact was they weren't there; this is combat, you know, at the time. And the S-3's RTO for some reason was not getting communications. So the S-3, when he joined our group there ...
DR. WRIGHT: So then the fire support net, in essence, became the command and control net for the battalion?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed. But that's not unusual. That's just almost like we train. [LAUGHTER] Again, you know, several times on field problems that has, you know, happened. And that's one of the reasons why it's critical. And you mentioned me next to LTC Marable, the FSO next to the colonel, that's absolutely essential for that particular reason, in case the maneuver net goes down for whatever reason, then the fire support net, which is very, you know, very much reliable, you know, and has proven to be for us of course in this sort of operation. If it goes down you won't have any commo. But it has proven itself to be very reliable, and in that way you can still have the status to the task force commander based on talking to the FIST chief.
DR. WRIGHT: And you could reach back to the airfield with your PRC-77?
CPT TAYLOR: No, not on the assault. Like I say, I had the long whip [antenna] up, but going back to the airfield, in the assault at Tinajitas, that was not possible. I was talking to my FIST and I had the ALO talking to the aircraft. So I was not able to reach back to the airfield on the assault.
DR. WRIGHT: So you could relay through the aircraft, then, the ALO could get somebody to relay back?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes. As far as getting the information back to anybody back there by relaying through the Air Force back there was possible because he had that, the big, you know, the Air Force UH radio to do that. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have any mortars from Delta Company available to you?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, Delta Company didn't have any mortars. But the 81[mm battalion mortar]s that were supposed to have gone in with Delta Company as part of the convoy to support from the overlooking hill, that never happened simply because of the situation with the heavy drop. They went into a swamp, and it was not until later that they recovered. However, we did have the hand-held 60[mm company mortar]s which provided us some good suppressive fire as we went up the hill at Tinajitas.
DR. WRIGHT: Talk me through the attack.
CPT TAYLOR: Through the attack. Yes. We hit the LZ, and then we started going up the mountain basically at ... once we got in the vicinity, the colonel went ahead and ordered the aircraft ...
[END OF SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: Resuming with Side 2. CPT Taylor you were taking me up the hill.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. As a matter of fact, as I said, it was rather simple, really. The colonel called in for the aircraft to fire concussion grenades up there not for the purpose of destroying the building, but if there had been anybody left up there, [to] go ahead and get them out of there. You know, have them shaken up.
And so the first company went up there, which I believe was Charlie Company that [was] the first to reach the top. Based on my conversation with the FIST as they went up there, followed by Alpha and Bravo. And we just simply walked up there and occupied the buildings. It was a very simple attack. We were under fire the whole time. Like I said, we fired back with SAWs, machine guns, etc., at the forces across the street. We just went straight up the hill
securing the hilltop objective, which was very interesting.
DR. WRIGHT: How much damage had been done to the buildings?
CPT TAYLOR: Not very much. A lot of the glasses ... the glass had been blown out, because they had the glass windows. A lot of those had been blown out, and, you know, some of the glass was littered on the inside. There was a lot of damage on the outside, you know, the pock marks, you know, that sort of thing. But the structure itself was still intact.
DR. WRIGHT: Hasty occupation of the position; establish a 360-[degree defense]?
CPT TAYLOR: Hasty occupation--it was very hasty because I think we got up there, myself and the commander, we came under fire again from snipers. Of course, then some of the infantrymen immediately went out there and took care of that in an airborne fashion. And that eliminated that threat.
But that's what we did at first, like I said, occupied the outside, you know, did a thorough search of the building, made sure there was nothing there, and then started the force to dig in up there and prepare for further operations.
DR. WRIGHT: How long did you stay up on the hill?
CPT TAYLOR: All told? Well, we stayed up there ... let's see, this was 20 December. We actually pulled out of there on 10 January was when we finally left there for good.
DR. WRIGHT: So, through the whole ... and you pulled out of there for good just to go back to Tocumen airfield ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... to load up?
CPT TAYLOR: Let's see. Yes, 10 January at 8:00 is when we moved to Tocumen airfield. So 10 January at 5:00 we wake up at Tinajitas, we have stand-to. Then at 08 we move to Tocumen, and that's to come back. I kept a diary of every day up there, by the way, of everything that went on.
DR. WRIGHT: Using the diary as a crutch, do you want to take me through the operation then, I mean instead of me asking questions. That sounds to me like ... just hit the highlights.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the thing about it is, you know, this is, of course, after the actions have been completed, of course, because I wasn't out there as the bullets were flying, "Gee, one bullet, right ear." [LAUGHTER] You know, "Near hit, here." It wasn't that sort of thing, it was just a matter of, you know, after we had had some time and gotten up there, and you know ... and as a matter of fact, I will read a passage of it, sure. I'll get something in here.
Here we go. This is on 29 December, O.K.? O.K., combat patrol into Fort Clayton. It says, "The war that never was. The PX is open. Children are playing with their recently obtained Christmas toys, and homeowners are busily manicuring their lawns. Meanwhile, 15 minutes away, combat-weary paratroopers of Task Force RED DEVIL wait in tense anticipation of that long-awaited call to return to Bragg. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. And the beat goes on.
"I look at the faces of the young paratroopers here. Young, happy faces who still do not comprehend the extent of the history they have had a large hand in making. I don't know for sure if even I fully comprehend the events we participated in."
And then, of course, I get ... there's [INAUDIBLE] I address right there. That's just, you know, some of the things. I've got comments here about, you know, some of the activities we did, you know. We had a big food drive out there. I make the comment, "This is not what hard-charging, direct-line combat troops should be doing. Bring in the Red Cross or some 'legs' and send us back to Bragg." [LAUGHTER] This is written up in some of the comments there.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Drop back a little bit to as you secure the LZ, secure the objective.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point you start getting a handle on what the casualties were [that you took] coming in?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, we do. That's when we find out we had that two KIA [killed in action], you know, one on the LZ and one going up the hill. And that's when we find out the number of wounded we've had to that point as well. So we're starting to get those figures in at that point, indeed.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point do the numbers strike you as high, or do you feel a sense of relief that we came through with less loss that that kind of an objective, had it been tenaciously defended, could have produced?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, I had ... my thoughts were twofold, you know. I felt sorry, you know, particularly when they brought the bodies of the young guys up, and you'd see them lying there lined up, just two mornings before, shaving at Fort Bragg, going to work. And that did something to me that I don't think I will ever forget.
However on the other hand I had a feeling we would not have been able to fully, shall we say, make amends, you know for those guys that got wounded because it was an engagement. So it was kind of a six of one, half a dozen of the other. I was glad to be alive, you know, we had done our job. I couldn't really assess whether those were heavy or light casualties, based on the fact that we were still sort of numb with what we had gone through ourselves. We were still shell-shocked. We'd got mortared, shot at; and we had two KIAs, several wounded; and we had seen that going up. And so our minds were still buzzing with that and really did not have a chance to rationalize whether that was a heavy casualty rate or a low casualty rate based on those factors.
DR. WRIGHT: You indicated earlier that you took two of the 120[mm] mortars on the hilltop?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. They were there. And they were [INAUDIBLE]. What they had done, they had rendered them inop[erable]--you know, slammed a round down the tube, put the butt plug on and left them there. So they were intact at the top of Tinajitas.
DR. WRIGHT: But that means that there are two that are still missing?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And one of which at least has been firing at you.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: At which point do you start trying to get ... or as you're going up the hill, are you trying to get a handle on where the mortars are that are firing on you?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as far as getting a handle on it, we're being fired upon by the mortars. They seemed to be firing from the other side of the hill, you know, without any direction-finding equipment or any capability to fire back, it was just a matter of, you know, avoiding those rounds. Fortunately we did not suffer any more casualties than we did, because we were going up a hilltop objective; they were on another hill, they could have easily, you know, taken all of us out. But once we got up to the top, we realized from whence up there to seize the objective, we had no way of knowing. It was just the grace of God.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. So as you identify where they are firing from, then do you try to bring in the air strikes on them?
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, we did. Once we get to the top, up Tinajitas, they're firing from the hilltop on the other side, from the LZ where we went in. And so we were able to see them firing.
DR. WRIGHT: So which direction would that be, orienting from where you are on the hilltop? Are they from the south or to the ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: From the hilltop there to the north. They are to the north of Tinajitas hilltop.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. You then contact Painter, I guess, to run the OA-37s in on them?
CPT TAYLOR: No. A-37s.
DR. WRIGHT: Oh. O.K.
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, they were making the runs over the target, but based on the fact that there were civilians there, they did not engage.
DR. WRIGHT: Do they suppress just by making the passes?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they did, as a matter of fact.
DR. WRIGHT: Make them keep their heads down?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, they didn't put their heads down per se, but you could see them standing around the mortar tube, looking at the aircraft, which was, you know, very funny. It was very strange to us. They just stopped firing at us and they started looking at the aircraft as they passed over. I don't know if they were expecting to get bombed or what. But they did indeed stop firing at us, yes. And so the presence of them stopped them, suppressed them enough.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you see, as you were looking at them through the binoculars, can you see them in uniform, or are they in blue jeans?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, they're in blue jeans and some of them were wearing red shirts, red T-shirts. Some of them were wearing white T-shirts. But they're not in uniform, they're just a bunch of, you know, guys out there in blue jeans, like I said, you know, different sorts of boots; nothing really resembling, you know, military uniforms.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you police up any Panamanian casualties in that initial hour, two hours? Do you find any dead or wounded lying there? Do you capture anybody?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we did. We captured a lot, as a matter of fact, an initial group up there. As a matter of fact, they were brought up to the top of Tinajitas.
Numbers, I don't recall off the top, but I just know that the area that we had reserved for them, we had it full. Guys with blindfolds and flex cuffs and, you know, the whole bit. So we did indeed capture a lot of casualties. As far as bodies per se, since everybody that was firing appeared to have been firing at us outside of our objective area and we engaged them from time to time, we did not even go out there to police and count the bodies.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. All the prisoners pretty much in civilian attire as well?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you find anybody in uniform?
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, my recollection states that we did not. I cannot go back. We had some that were perhaps pieces of uniform, maybe a top and a blue jean bottom. But nobody in a complete, you know, uniform per se that was identifiable.
DR. WRIGHT: As you get a chance to look at their barracks, does it appear that that is a deliberate policy move on their part?
CPT TAYLOR: To not wear ... ?
DR. WRIGHT: To not wear uniforms?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, we captured a lot of those ... the lockers still intact. There were uniforms in there, and there was a great supply, you know, fully intact, boots, the whole bit. So it appeared they had the capability to outfit their individuals in the uniforms.
DR. WRIGHT: Professional soldier assessment of the soldierly qualities of the Panamanians that were, I guess, that's what, the 1st Company up on the hill?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, like I said, this is the fire support base, porta de fuego. It was the fire support base. As a matter of fact, the guys who ... that was where the mortars were based was there. An assessment of those guys, as far as their professional abilities? I think that for whatever reason they did not believe in their leadership and was not willing (if indeed they had any) was not willing to really think it was worth dying for, pure death. Once they found out that we were in, they more or less hightailed it to the hills and decided to engage in, like I said, guerrilla tactics as opposed to slugging it out with the 82d.
DR. WRIGHT: You allude to the fact of the absence of leadership on their part. Do you have any evidence or do you hear any stories from the first couple of days you're up there as you're doing the--as the MI [military intelligence] guys are doing hasty interrogation--that their leadership had cut and run on them and left the privates just hanging?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, they were saying that, and there were big rumors that Noriega himself had indeed ran, and that filtered down. This is what we were getting from the interrogations: that they indeed, you know, went ahead and followed suit. They went ahead and decided to ran--run--themselves. Also, it appeared that a lot of them did not have their heart, you know, in the whole process to begin with, as some of them had been forced into it or, you know, because of their economic conditions, whatever, just were doing that, you know, merely as a way to get clothed and fed. So it seemed like their heart was not in it, not as the professional soldier, and they really did not have the heart to engage with the 82d, particularly after hearing their leaders had fled.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you have any sense that they had, say, a common task training program that was decent? Did these guys have soldierly skills at the individual level and just an absence of any kind of coherent doctrine or leadership training?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, you know, it's amazing, as a matter of fact, this came out of one of the rooms back there, but a lot of their manuals were American manuals; in other words, direct from Fort Benning. And it appeared by some of the records that some of their officers had been trained at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, I mean, these places there. As far as a training program to implement that and get that down to the soldiers, I could not identify any, you know, record of that. However, as far as [being] a fire support officer, I was not really concerned.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: You know, that type of collateral information. As a matter of fact, the intelligence personnel will be able to answer that more fully. But I did not see any sign of that, no.
DR. WRIGHT: Given that this was the base for the mortars, did the intelligence guys ask you at all to take a look at any of their equipment or any of their manuals or any of their documents?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, I was even given their TRP list. In other words, they had all the areas around there with TRPs, target reference points, so I was able to ... . I was given that by Mr. Sullins, as a matter of fact, a warrant officer in intel, who was excellent, by the way. He already had jumped into Grenada with the Ranger battalion. I mean very professional, a high-speed intelligence warrant officer. And so he gave me that data, and he showed me that, yes, indeed. I did get that.
DR. WRIGHT: So at least there were some officers that had some fundamental knowledge of fire support?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, you mean on our side?
DR. WRIGHT: No. On their side.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed, there were. Like I said, it was a fire support base. And it was obvious they had our [FM] 6-30, you know, which is our field artillery forward observer procedures, they have the latest edition. They had, you know, [FMs] 6-50, 6-40: field artillery cannon gunnery, field artillery cannon battalion. So they had those manuals in English right there inside the library. So they had those manuals, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Describe to me your impressions of that as a military installation, a garrison military installation vis-a-vis Fort Bragg.
CPT TAYLOR: As a garrison military installation.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: I thought it was a pretty good one, as far as a singular structure. Because within that singular concrete structure you had: a complete arms rooms, a very large arms room with billets in there to sleep; you got a large open bay; you have a large cafeteria, a large dining area, you know; plus kitchen to make things. You had the separate S-1, S-2, S-3 areas. As far as a singular installation, that was very good. As a matter of fact, I would say it would be comparable to a singular installation that the Germans would have constructed, you know, in Germany, having seen those over there. So as a singular installation on a mountaintop, it was very good.
DR. WRIGHT: Could it be reasonably well maintained?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: They hadn't let it run into the ground or anything?
CPT TAYLOR: No. It was pretty well maintained. Like I say they had the trophies, the area policed, grass cut. Definitely appeared to be well maintained, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything about that installation strike you in the first day you were there--as really making an impression on you in any way, something, you know, like their camouflage? Were the buildings painted exterior with camouflage?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they were. They were painted with camouflage on the exterior.
DR. WRIGHT: A different pattern than we use, though?
CPT TAYLOR: A different pattern. Theirs appeared to be a dark green and a beige combination, is what their camouflage pattern was.
DR. WRIGHT: Up to the window level and then whitewashed from windows up?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, no, as a matter of fact, it appeared to be the whole building. The thing about it was they had tin roofs, you know, which struck me as kind of weak. But, yes, indeed, they had their own camouflage patterns.
DR. WRIGHT: As you get into the afternoon of that first day ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... you've now established a perimeter, the CP is up and running.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, this is evening. It was a long climb. We didn't really get to the top until about 1900. So the sun was starting to set, it was starting to get dark. It was still light when we got there, but soon after that it became dark.
DR. WRIGHT: You establish your perimeter, and then you guys sit down and start trying to set up radio comms back?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, indeed. Back to the airfield.
DR. WRIGHT: To the airfield?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Finding out what the status is of everybody outside. Setting up and digging our holes. Indeed, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: And then go into, what, two on, four off rotation?
CPT TAYLOR: No, for us--the staff--it was basically twenty-four-hour op[eration]s. You know as the FSO I literally lived by my radio which was right next to the S-3, the commander. First we set up in a hall. Literally that's where we lived for days was inside that hall. And so whenever we'd kind of nod off ... my NCO would be there, you know; I'd say, "I'm going to go ahead and grab a couple of hours' sleep here and there." No specific shift, because this is combat twenty-four-hour operations. Whenever I felt tired, you know, I kind of just went and laid down, right there, you know, fifteen feet from the radio as opposed to being two feet from it. That was, you know, going through the rear, fifteen feet away. [LAUGHTER] And then he took over that sort of thing. But we maintained twenty-four-hour ops there.
DR. WRIGHT: What happens then on the successive days?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we get shelled that night. As a matter of fact we get shelled on the hill when we have four wounded in action: a lieutenant and three soldiers. And so they get medevac'd out.
DR. WRIGHT: The 120[mm] mortars?
CPT TAYLOR: 120 mortars.
DR. WRIGHT: Or the smaller ones?
CPT TAYLOR: No. 120 mortars, they hit us that night, the first night.
The second night, we're getting shelled sporadically again. No major injuries this time. We've learned our lesson.
About the third day is when we started doing combat patrols--patrols to actually find out where these guys are coming from. On about day five, before Christmas, we actually find the other mortar in the ville. And then from about day five on, the fighting itself, I mean the chance of, you know, of stray bullets here and there, I mean up until then is very intense.
Days three and four it starts to scatter down to where we're starting to feel a little more comfortable. By days five and six, you know, getting up there, around Christmas, we're expecting to get a big rush because of Christmas and the political ...
DR. WRIGHT: The big rumor. I mean for the guys down at the airfield, it was Christmas Eve they're hearing, you know, there's 8,000 screaming digbats [dignity battalion personnel] massing at the end of the runway.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Exactly. We expecting to get that because it will be the big political bash, you know, getting slammed at Christmas.
But then after Christmas, and of course it was about this time too that old Manuel [Noriega] was captured, but after about Christmas on ... and then we get the big rumors of another, you know, smash on New Year's, which was also heightened by the fact that they were celebrating so much, you'd hear firecrackers and wouldn't know, you know, whether they were going to be gunfire or what.
But from about Christmas on, really, we became very comfortable there. Like I said, we started running down and going to the troop stand and, you know, you were getting bread and all this sort of thing. So it really calmed down after that.
DR. WRIGHT: You mention that you did take down one mortar with an air strike.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Can you give me some details on that? When does that happen?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. I'd be happy to. That happened on about day three. And what happened was they started firing at us. We identified--and this time they weren't firing from the north, apparently because we had captured that one. Apparently they had this one that was down there, in a warehouse.
DR. WRIGHT: Down in the barrio down there, what is it, about 400 or 500 meters from the hill?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact. That warehouse. I'm sure you have already heard what happened. But anyway ...
DR. WRIGHT: No, I haven't. Just from overflying the target area repeatedly, I just knew if you said warehouse, that's where it had to be.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. It was the warehouse down there, like I said, to the north. Now, the south, the opposite side of where the other one was firing at us from. And so they were firing at us. [We] sent a patrol down there to verify that indeed, you know, there were no friendlies in the area. And a patrol went down there, actually went inside the warehouse, you know; saw nothing but guys with weapons, you know; engaged--a small fire fight broke out. They disengaged, came back, gave the thumbs-up. So at that time, the colonel said, "Roger, you got it, Dave. Go for it."
So A-37 HE [high explosive] rockets--and we slammed it. We obliterated--that whole thing was smoking for days, yes. So that was the excitement.
DR. WRIGHT: How many aircraft did you have in that strike?
CPT TAYLOR: Two. Two aircraft. Two A-37s.
DR. WRIGHT: Out of Howard [Air Force Base]?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, I do not know where they came from, but obviously they would be the assumption.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have a FAC [forward air controller] up in the air?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. There was one on board and one on the ground also. As a matter of fact, my FAC on the ground was ... we had two FACs, like I said. One stayed with me, Dave Freisner, Rick Freisner; and then Dave Lucia went out with one of my FOs. And so I was talking to the FO that was giving me the directions, etc., etc., and so he relayed that information up to the FAC next to him, and they directed that on to that warehouse and we took it out.
DR. WRIGHT: How did you mark the target?
CPT TAYLOR: We marked the target by the fact it was readily identifiable. The FAC on the ground had an IR strobe. So he marked his position as well as some VS ... the panels. So he set them up in an arrow on top of the hill, literally, pointing towards the warehouse there. [LAUGHTER] So the Air Force was able to see those, you know, pointing to the warehouse there. Roger; identified it. Then he had a strobe too that he pointed out and those two. And we nailed them.
DR. WRIGHT: The went in with 2.75s?
CPT TAYLOR: No, they went in with HE rockets.
DR. WRIGHT: With 2.75 rockets, the 2.75-inch HE rockets?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Yes, indeed. They went in with those.
DR. WRIGHT: About how many rockets? Do you know? Do you have any idea how many they expended?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, let's see, I heard five explosions. [LAUGHTER] And then there was no further problems.
DR. WRIGHT: Were there any secondary explosions?
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, I heard some small ones.
DR. WRIGHT: Sound like small arms rounds cooking off?
CPT TAYLOR: Sounded like small arms, something like that, you know. But those first explosions were so tremendous--boom, you know, boom--that there may have been some secondary explosions that were, you know, kind of ...
DR. WRIGHT: Sympathetic detonations and stuff?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: The ground observers have the building completely under observation?
CPT TAYLOR: Completely under observation.
DR. WRIGHT: Does anybody get out of the building?
CPT TAYLOR: No. There were witnesses, like I said, running around there, but nobody seen leaving the building.
DR. WRIGHT: How long before a ground party goes in to sweep the smoking ruins?
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, the Bravo Company element that was on the ground ... we went ahead and extracted them. And then since there was no further reason to go down there, we didn't send in a party after that. There were other elements, other Panamanians came around and looked around and appeared to go in while it was smoking and grabbed some things. I guess they figured this is not a good place to be. And do that. But as far as sending down an element ourselves, we did not do that.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Any other significant combat-type actions during those first few days before it quiets out?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, again, going into the village, those were combat patrols to get, you know, the mortars. As far as fire fights, no. About day six or seven, again, after Christmas, we started even going in with a Panamanian television crew to conduct drug raids; in other words, looking for drugs, money, that sort of thing. So after that, though, nothing really significant as far as combat operations.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get involved at all in the muskets-for-money program?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, we did. You mean as far as the task force there?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: Handing out the leaflets? Yes. And then we had them lined up at the gate, you know, coming up there and giving us information and that sort of thing, and actual weapons, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: What is your assessment of the response of the Panamanian people in that barrio area to our presence and to the idea that we came in on the operation?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, incredibly positive. I mean it was just so phenomenally positive I could not imagine that sort of positive support happening in any American neighborhood, as a matter of fact. I mean every person. I mean they were lined up there, they were waving, they were yelling. The kids were, you know parrot eglista and saying, "America, America."
Like I said, the men, women, and children were lined up with weapons, turning them in. I mean they had us outgunned. I mean just from the weapons that the civilians turned in, they had us outgunned. The LAWs, I mean .44-[cal] magnums, I mean AK-47s, SKMs, SKSs. I mean they literally had us outgunned tremendously. And they just came up there and just turned them in to us. So the attitude was incredibly positive.
DR. WRIGHT: What about handing out of food supplies and stuff like that to the Panamanians? Did the task force get involved with that?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, very much so. As a matter of fact, we had what we called the Tinajitas food drive, and we had literally thousands of Panamanians lined up from 05 in the morning to get one MRE [Meal, Ready-to-Eat].
As a matter of fact, let me just read, you know, from the excerpts from that because that's one of the things, you know, I wrote about ... the big food drive. Let's see, that took place ... 31 December, 1 January, 2 January, 4 January, 7 January, 5, 6, 7, 9 ... let's see I have us leave here, so it must be further back here. 4 January, 3 January.
DR. WRIGHT: As you're hunting for that, handing out of MREs to the Panamanians, is that initially an extemporized thing the troops started doing, or did you wait to get stock they just shipped out to you?
CPT TAYLOR: No, we had waited till we got stockages shipped out, sent out to us, because that was a government-sponsored thing. The soldiers didn't give anything to the Panamanians. We were told not to, as a matter of fact, because of things like that.
As a matter of fact, that happened, the big food drive, happened on 30 December, as a matter of fact, when it is. "Food drive was something else, literally thousands of locals around Tinajitas stand in line from 0500 to 10:00 for one MRE. They don't look starved. I think they went in more for the spectacle than for the food stuffs."
So that happened on 30 December is when we had that major food drive. And like I said, I think, as my thoughts were, they're in it more for the spectacle, you know, just being around the Americans and the guys, seeing what it was like, the guys that liberated them. So that took place on 30 December, the big food drive. We gave out over 10,000 MREs. I mean, flat-bed trucks came in with cases. I mean there were cartons of cases of MREs. So that happened on 30 December.
DR. WRIGHT: Do the Panamanians react to the MRE like our troops, or were they a little happier about seeing them?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, they were quite happy. As a matter of fact, inside the compound there, right at the distribution point, we had them line up outside the fence, go through, get their MRE and drive on. But some of the school kids there we had with us directly, sitting right next to us, those kids were ecstatic. We helped them open their MRE with our, you know, big knives. And then we opened up, we'd give them, you know, the ground beef with spice sauce. These kids were ecstatic, you know, take the sugar and the cream and put it in their pears and give them some water, and they're munching out on them. [LAUGHTER] It was really a funny sight, seeing those little kids there, happy, you know, all that sort of stuff. You know, that was really good stuff.
DR. WRIGHT: Do troops start getting hold of Panamanian food then, go down to the food stalls and whatnot to get fresh fruit and bread and stuff like that?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And not only that, but out at the roadblock sites the Panamanian civilians were bringing them hot food directly from the table. So we went down to the roadblock the first night, the colonel and myself, and of course, our escort group, expecting to see the soldiers out there hunkered down in the grass. These guys were out there, you know, eating fresh stuff, you know, having the young girls with, you know, limonada or whatever it is they drink down there, you know. Those guys are living it up, so they're getting, you know, lots of fresh, hot Panamanian food.
DR. WRIGHT: So, in a sense, that solved one of the logistics issues about having to go according to the plan for so long on nothing but MREs?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the thing about is, after a certain time, after about two weeks, we started getting hot As [fresh food rations] anyway.
DR. WRIGHT: Hot As or Ts [tray-pack rations]?
CPT TAYLOR: No, hot As. Hot As that we were heating up up there. So we were getting, like I said--no, wait, that's not true. No, we had hot As, that is correct. We had hot As. I mean fresh meats were brought up there, cooked, I mean the whole bit. Several meals like that, you know, fresh eggs for breakfast. I mean we were having real food up there.
DR. WRIGHT: Real food?
CPT TAYLOR: Real food up there at Tinajitas, yes. By this time, of course, the supply route had been opened and it was no longer the gauntlet.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes. How long does it take for the MSR [main supply route] to open up for the first convoy?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the thing about it is that it was never secured. So, you know, MAJ Turner, who was the XO ... we termed that convoy the gauntlet. The reason being they took hits every time ... several ambushes (as a matter of fact, two wounded) each way from the airfield up there and also back to redo that. So it was never "open." They had to blast, really blast their way through. They had the tanks [M-551 Sheridan armored airborne reconnaissance vehicles] protect the front. There were vehicles, burning vehicles on the road, they just blasted through those, I mean, you know, 50-cal[iber machine gun]s blazing, I mean, you know, just returning fire left and right.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get involved at all in fire support planning for the convoy runs, or did they have like gunships as escorts?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the fire support planning--I had responsibility for it, but what happened, we gave TSGT Phillips, you know, he was the escort, he had the ability to talk to the aircraft the whole time. So the fire support for the convoy was the aircraft that were actually flying overhead as the convoy went back and forth.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you make contact with Alpha Battery?
CPT TAYLOR: With Alpha Battery? As a matter of fact, we never--well, we talked to them on the radio up there about, you know, day three. They had a situation getting stuff out of the swamp.
But as far as physical contact, we did not physically link up with them until it was almost time for redeployment towards the end. Talked to them on the radio. They had recently--they were originally in support of 4/325 [4th Battalion, 325th Infantry]. Once they got out of the swamp, they went out in support of the Rangers. So, in other words, they were chopped officially to go support the Ranger battalion.
DR. WRIGHT: Did ... the Ranger battalion that was working that special AO?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, exactly. And as a matter of fact, they got airlifted out, you know, did an air mobile mission out there to support the Rangers. So they were totally out of range with us. They never "officially" were laid on any of our targets in a defensive environment whatsoever.
DR. WRIGHT: Move back down then after, I guess, getting heavy into the nation-building phase for about two weeks. You get the word that you're moving back when? Not the day ... when do you hear that redeployment is going to happen versus when it actually happens?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, we're hearing that redeployment is going to happen almost daily.
DR. WRIGHT: And is this a continuation of the "72 hours and you're home"?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. But there was one point there when we got a substantiation that we're going to be there for at least two more days. And that was on 26 December, day six. We're officially told at staff call that we're going to be there for a minimum of fourteen more days. That happened on 26 December at the staff call.
DR. WRIGHT: And that's a fairly ... as it turns out, that's pretty accurate because that's just about exactly how long ...
CPT TAYLOR: Well, 26, 31, 5, we deploy back on the 12th. Actually left there on the 11th. So, six, that was fairly accurate. Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes. Which is random happenstance and I am sure we'll correct it the next time, getting such accurate information that early in the operation.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. But until we're told that minimum fourteen more days then. That was on 26 December at the commander's staff update when we got that information.
DR. WRIGHT: And then I guess the troops start leaning forward in the harness at that point to go home?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, by this point we had been so deluged with rumors and rumors of rumors that we really took that, well, O.K., with a grain of salt. Let's see, fourteen days, you know, the start of the jokes about being there, you know, through St. Patrick's Day and etc., etc.
So at that time we were pretty much, you know, immune to any more rumors of going home. We'll just settle in for the long haul, and so just make ourselves at home, you know. So with that we just realized that we were just going to be there until we actually move out.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you see evidence of the troops improving their positions, as it were, with some comfort items? Do they start fishing out hammocks and coming up with bunks and stuff like that?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, they started to really do some massive improvement ... plus the logistics for that time ... the care packages from the States and the PX started to come in. So the guys would have, you know, all the stuff in the hootches you'd see down there. They'd have bags of M&Ms and these sorts of things, you know, still maintaining discipline, don't get me wrong, but, you know, it's now like, "Well, we're going to be here. Let's go ahead, you know, and make the best of it."
So that happened, but none of the hammocks concept because we still had in mind the first night where they got mortared and hadn't quite dug in yet, and like I say, some of those guys got medevac'd out. So that started to happen towards the end.
DR. WRIGHT: Let's get back a little bit to the medevac issue. Your initial casualties from the assault, how did they get extracted?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the initial casualties being the KIAs and the wounded in action. O.K. Medevac, but it was very slow, you know. They called in the helicopters, we brought the KIA back up to the top and then we had helicopters come in, like I said, to extract, you know, those two guys out. The wounded got extracted. They got moved to an LZ away from the compound where they got extracted out of there by medevac.
DR. WRIGHT: Medevac birds or regular birds? I mean did they have the white crosses, the white panels with the red crosses on them?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, actually, the ones that got extracted from the LZ away from the compound I did not physically see because we were going on. We kept a party back to look out for them, with combat lifesavers, etc. So I did not physically see those birds, but there was one that came in that had the cross on it, I remember, up at Tinajitas for some of the civilian casualties that we had up there.
DR. WRIGHT: Later on?
CPT TAYLOR: They had the red crosses, not the white. Red crosses on there.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Resupply by CH-47 [Chinook] or UH-60s?
CPT TAYLOR: What got resupplied?
DR. WRIGHT: The aerial resupply.
CPT TAYLOR: There was no aerial. There was never any aerial resupply. All our resupply got done by ground convoy, period. I mean the helicopters were with another task force--with 7th I[nfantry] D[ivision] or something like that. But all our resupply came by convoy. All the M&Ms and everything that we got, the food, came on those gauntlet runs led by MAJ Turner.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, you said you got down to, in the excerpt from your diary, you got down on the 30th of December to Fort Clayton.
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, no, that was on the 29th, is when that happened.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: The 30th was the ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... it was the food drive?
CPT TAYLOR: The food drive. Right.
DR. WRIGHT: But you did have a chance, then, to get down to Fort Clayton?
CPT TAYLOR: Right. That was the first time. The ninth day there was the first time we left the compound other than on a combat patrol or something like that. This is just ... got in the colonel's vehicle and went down to ... just wandering around ... took a map, went down to Clayton.
And like I say, that's where we were shocked, I mean, it was absolutely stunning. If you can imagine, I mean combat paratroopers still with camouflage paint, in the foxholes, stand-to; and then going down there and seeing homeowners manicuring their lawns and little, you know, clean-faced children playing with their Christmas toys, I mean it was absolutely a shock to see that.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you come out of camouflage face paint?
CPT TAYLOR: We came out of camouflage, again it is in one of the notes ... it was, I think, about day five, six, or seven.
DR. WRIGHT: Division policy or battalion policy?
CPT TAYLOR: We were told at staff call. I don't know if the colonel had gotten that from, you know, from higher in one of his meetings or what. I can't find that right away in here. But, you know, we were told--this was after a week, though--to sort of go ahead and stop doing the camouflage.
DR. WRIGHT: Again, as part of the changing rules of engagement to minimize the militaristic aspects of it and sort of desensitize the Panamanians, you know, take it down? Because I know other elements in the joint task force ... decisions were made that when you came out of camouflage, when you came out of Kevlar, when you took magazines out of the weapons and whatnot, was part of a phased program that was being dictated from on high about reducing the war-like image and getting more into the policeman image and the nation-building thing.
CPT TAYLOR: O.K. That may have been. Again, you know, we just got the information from the battalion commander, who may have been receiving his guidance from higher. All we just knew was ...
DR. WRIGHT: He just said stop doing it.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. And that was good enough for us as a company commander.
DR. WRIGHT: What happens when you're back, when you move then off the hill back down to the airfield? Chaos? Confusion? A lot of grab-ass on the part of the troops that were going home?
CPT TAYLOR: No. As a matter of fact, because we went down to the airfield with a mission--we were to relieve the Rangers in place. So we didn't just go down to the airfield and "hupp, it's time to relax now." We went down there with the mission to defend the airfield. So we had soldiers in the perimeters and still had the fire support plan. We were still in a tactical mission, the TOC in operation. So we went down there, we did not get relieved of that mission until like January 11th, when it was time to redeploy.
DR. WRIGHT: And then somebody from the ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: The 7th ID. And then they relieved us. Then at that time we really kind of, you know, kicked back a little bit and got ready to redeploy.
DR. WRIGHT: What are you told in terms of being shaken down by customs and what can you bring back, stuff like that in terms of souvenirs?
CPT TAYLOR: We're basically told that, you know, we can't bring anything back. You know, that we're going to leave everything there, that sort of thing. If we had anything we wanted to bring back, we were told to beforehand have that labeled, you know, give to the sergeant major and he'd have a special box flown back with things in it. And that was basically the guidance. We laid everything out. Customs went through everything.
DR. WRIGHT: A real tight customs inspection?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, it was. I mean we laid everything out. They opened up radios, they checked the batteries, you know, squeezed toothpaste tubes. I mean it was really, really a good, thorough customs ... .
DR. WRIGHT: Civilian customs, or was it MPs?
CPT TAYLOR: No, it was a combination. You had the MPs there with their dogs. They were assisted by, it appeared to be, I guess, DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] agents or whatever they were, with the yellow shirts, black pants, and, you know, the guns. So there was a mutual ... MPs with the dogs as well as civilians going through too.
DR. WRIGHT: Your impression that they were looking for drugs, or were they looking for war souvenirs, or was it just an across-the-board nobody going back with anything they didn't have in their rucksack coming down?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the thing of it was it didn't ... you know, it looked like it was a very thorough search, but there wasn't really a great deal of individuals, you know, who had anything ... got caught. Nothing turned back, that sort of thing. It appeared they were looking both for contraband and war souvenirs per se. Again, there were some guys that had a couple of flags out, you know, who brought those back to the States. But it appeared their main emphasis was on drugs, contraband, that sort of thing.
DR. WRIGHT: You load up for the jump back in.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Take off in the [C]-141s from Tocumen.
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Fly back up. Approximately the same length of flight?
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, it was 0200 takeoff the morning of 12 January. And the doors came open at 0757. The green light came on at 8:00 12 January 1990.
DR. WRIGHT: What is your impression as you come out the door? Again, you in the same relative configuration you went down in?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, with the exception of this time we're now task force pure--going down we were cross-loaded, so that we had other guys from 2/504 aircraft. Coming back we were task force pure. And again I was chalk four again. But this time I was the number one jumper, right door. And we had the big television crew there. As a matter of fact, LTC Spohn, our battalion commander now, said that I figured prominently in its new film that was now showing to the "newbies" because I'm the number one jumper, I'm pointing to my 82d patch, you know, and I'm elated, and, you know, "whoofing," of course--an all-American, etc. [LAUGHTER] And he says that I figure very prominently in that film coming back. Number one jumper all the way until I give the safety my static line and go out the door.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, you actually had a film crew on the aircraft?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. There was a film crew on the aircraft, filming us as we got on board down in Panama.
DR. WRIGHT: From the division PAO shop [public affairs office]?
CPT TAYLOR: I don't think they were --
DR. WRIGHT: Were these guys in uniform?
CPT TAYLOR: No, they were civilians. These were, you know, the guys--they had beards and long hair. These were civilians. I don't know if they were contracted out or what. But these guys were 100-percent civilians who, you know, interviewed us and did all that sort of stuff. Coming into the aircraft, you know, the two lines going on, jumpmasters putting us in our chalks, and all the way, like I said, interviewed while in flight. And then when we came to the crucial, like I said, ten minutes stand up, then they were right there standing up in our faces getting our reactions. So they were there the whole time.
DR. WRIGHT: When you come out the door, where are you, directly over Sicily [Drop Zone]?
CPT TAYLOR: Directly over Sicily. I landed in about the middle, in the middle of Sicily by the time I exited the aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: You can see the crowd and everything else?
CPT TAYLOR: You can see and hear the crowd, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you actually hear them?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, they were screaming. You could hear that. I mean, see the planes going overhead as we were coming down, and you could see the crowd and you could hear the screams. It was like--oh, it was incredible, like being at a football game when you just scored the winning touchdown, you know. When you hear a crowd scream, it's mostly a feminine scream, you know. You don't hear, "Ah." But you hear the screams, the shrill screams. And that's what I remember. It sounded like a lot of women. And that was real important. [LAUGHTER] But here you could actually hear the screams, you know. And, oh, it was fantastic, one of the most fantastic feelings you could ever experience.
DR. WRIGHT: Good landing?
CPT TAYLOR: Fantastic landing. And again, I say that--it may have been compounded by the fact that, you know, the adrenaline was pumping because I just jumped the same Drop Zone Friday night and got bumped up a little bit. But, you know, good landing. I landed in the sand. There was a guy from PAO who was right there who happened to grab a great picture of me just as I am hitting the ground, 'chute's still inflated. As a matter of fact, that's a big blowup like this, you know, that I gave to my parents, you know, coming back. Oh, it's fantastic--600 'chutes still in the sky. You could still see my airplane still emptying and progressively getting smaller figures going back up towards the door. Fantastic picture.
DR. WRIGHT: At about what height did you jump at? About 800?
CPT TAYLOR: We jumped at 800 coming back. Normal, normal.
DR. WRIGHT: Pure Sicily drop?
CPT TAYLOR: That's right. With all our safety: static lines snapped, everything.
DR. WRIGHT: Assemble up. How did they get the flags? Flags prepositioned on the drop zone?
CPT TAYLOR: No, the flags were jumped back in. The flags were jumped back in, just like Stiner aids. You know, the battalion ... I guess that's how they got them. My ... I did not see them. Our task force did not have flags other than our guidons which were jumped in, like I said before.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you take the guidons down?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Yes, indeed.
DR. WRIGHT: To Panama?
CPT TAYLOR: God knows we took them down to Panama.
DR. WRIGHT: No kidding.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they were. Yes, indeed they were.
DR. WRIGHT: And did you take them on up to the hill at Tinajitas?
CPT TAYLOR: The hill at Tinajitas? Yes, we did have them there.
DR. WRIGHT: Did they come up on the convoy or did somebody pack them?
CPT TAYLOR: I can't tell you how they got up there, really. I just know they were flying up there, you know, in the company. So that's what happened out there. So I don't know how they got out there. I just saw them there. It was not my job to carry them there, I know that.
DR. WRIGHT: Then you get what, block leave?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we got block leave about a week later. We still had, you know, stuff to do. It was about two weeks after that or so that we did get block leave, yes, indeed, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: And all the property accountability and go through the whole issue of getting everybody back up to speed so that we're mission-capable again?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes. There was a large thing about that because, you know, there were some items that were lost and reports of survey. There were combat losses, you know, personal equipment, a lot of air items lost on the jump in. You know. But, yes, that started ... the whole process once we got back here, making sure that we're indeed up to snuff, we're to go on mission cycle again back down the road, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Thinking back to the whole overall thing.
CPT TAYLOR: O.K.
DR. WRIGHT: Any one single moment that really strikes you as an exceptionally humorous one or an exceptionally interesting one--something will stay in your mind forever?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. It's something that we kind of got back with us. Well, actually there are two, really.
There was one. 1LT Bob Gagnon, who was our PSYOPS attachment there, as a matter of fact, he's still over there now in the 9th PSYOPS Battalion, but he came up with the saying that wherever there's a woman, there's evil. He said, because he went downtown and saw all these good-looking women down there and made the comment, said, "Sir, wherever there was a woman, there is evil." And that was one thing.
And then also, the second part of that is that as Task Force 1/504 we kind of adopted a saying--that even when we say to this point now--that instead of saying "airborne" or "hooah" or something like that, when we see somebody, we say "Owww," you know, as sort of a general saying. And then when you're in a club or something like that, "Oh, the Red Devils," you know, have that.
DR. WRIGHT: The Red Devil is just the 1st Battalion, [504th Infantry]?
CPT TAYLOR: Right. The 1st Battalion.
DR. WRIGHT: Or the [whole] 504?
CPT TAYLOR: No, no, no. Devils, you know, is the entire 504. Red Devils, the 1/504; White Devils, 2/504; Blue Devils, 3/504. In other words, red, white, and blue devils. But the most interesting saying that came out of that--and there's a poster of it when you go down to interview Alpha [Company], 1/504--they've got this picture of a paratrooper with, you know, full butt pack, big knife, you know, hard-charging guy with the American flag, and he's got his finger on the nose of a prostrate Panamanian there--the Panamanian guy has got his eyes wide open, that sort of thing--and the caption is, "Have you ever danced with a red devil in the pale moonlight?"
DR. WRIGHT: In the pale moonlight. [LAUGHTER]
DR. WRIGHT: So, in that sense, this operation has been a tremendous cohesion and retention benefit for 1st Battalion?
CPT TAYLOR: I doubt--I would disagree with that. As a matter of fact, it's quite ironic, and I guess now that I am saying it, the guys who have the combat experience are all leaving, going elsewhere. For example, down there on the staff there, the [S]-1 who went down to Panama is--well, shoot, he's still there--but the [S]-2, the [S]-4 is gone, I am changed out, you know, this sort of thing. So we've seen a lot of the guys, first sergeants, two first sergeants, you know, have now left. And I guess it's only relevant because I am looking at that as a cohesive force going into combat. Now we're starting to go to other jobs, you know, to fan out. So in other words, that entire Task Force 1/504 element is now starting to shift. We're starting to get new personnel in.
But as far as cohesiveness, it was a hell of a cohesive unit going in down there. Now that's starting to break up for these reasons.
DR. WRIGHT: You had been in your job a long time?
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: LTC Marable hadn't been there for that long.
CPT TAYLOR: He'd been there for two months.
DR. WRIGHT: But overall, would you say that battalion team ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... the key players had been together longer than average, you know, given how people are constantly turning over in the Army?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Would you say that one, because of the timing, you know, just good luck on the timing that it went in at the long end of the team building as opposed to, say, had everybody just been thrown together just a couple of months earlier?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, yes, clearly. As a matter of fact, I mention that by having that ... I mentioned that I am changed out now, the S-4 is changed out, and other individuals are starting to change, first sergeants. The fact is that we were nearing the end of our times on our respective jobs in, you know, the "punch that block in" and then move on. So we deployed, 1/504, at that time.
DR. WRIGHT: At the best of all possible times for you?
CPT TAYLOR: Oh, indeed, we were hot to trot, like I say, you know, just come off, you know, going from Canada, Arkansas, I mean all over the place. In other words, we were hot and primed. We were indeed DRF-1 when we jumped in. So, yes, all the elements were in place and together. That made that happen that successfully.
DR. WRIGHT: Any ... . Oh, one thing. You said 1LT Gagnon was ...
CPT TAYLOR: Bob Gagnon. Gagnon.
DR. WRIGHT: ... your attached PSYOPS team.
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, he was.
DR. WRIGHT: 9th battalion?
CPT TAYLOR: 9th PSYOPS Battalion. Yes, he was.
DR. WRIGHT: How many people in the team?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, let's see, it was him, he had the Sergeant A. T. Sullins--there was a total of about eight personnel.
DR. WRIGHT: And you controlled the PSYOPS element because ...
CPT TAYLOR: Well, the S-2 controlled the PSYOPS element.
DR. WRIGHT: Well, I was just wondering because it is, in essence, throughout JUST CAUSE, primarily employed as a fire support element.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, no, it was not. It was employed in its proper doctrinal method. As a matter of fact, they did a lot of the crowd ... talking to ... went out there with the big PA systems and that sort of thing. So they were employed as a PSYOPS element as opposed to fire support, yes, indeed.
DR. WRIGHT: So they backpacked in their speakers?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes, they did. As a matter of fact, they jumped them in, and you see the results of some of that, you know, some of the havoc on that.
DR. WRIGHT: Smashed speakers? [LAUGHTER]
CPT TAYLOR: Indeed. But, yes, they jumped in their speakers, which, you know, was a novel concept, in my mind, jumping in your speakers. But, yes, indeed, they did.
DR. WRIGHT: In the initial assault up there at Tinajitas ...
CPT TAYLOR: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... was the plan of trying to talk ... give the Panamanians the chance to surrender, did that appear to work?
CPT TAYLOR: In the initial assault?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes. In other words, did you think the PSYOPS saved lives early on?
CPT TAYLOR: I think they did. Like I said, they were telling them to surrender out there on the airfield, and I think the fact that they said, "Look, you guys can't win. We're armed for bear and you're not, you're only rabbits," you know, so I think that that had a great deal to do with it. And a lot of them, like I said, the guys just surrendered, came up there and started giving us data, that sort of thing. So I indeed believe that.
And getting back to that point, you mentioned how many actual Panamanians did we encounter, you know, had there been a sturdy force, you know, that sort of thing. The only difference would have been, sure, we would have had higher casualties but the forces we would have brought down on them would have been more significant as well. So the only thing would have been that we would have just gone in and rubbled instead of going in there with, you know, the sophistication that we did. So sure we would have had more casualties, but we would have taken them out and there would have been no doubt.
DR. WRIGHT: Much quicker?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes, because you wouldn't have had to then spend the time waiting for ... ?
CPT TAYLOR: Sorting out.
DR. WRIGHT: ... the onesies, twosies ...
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: ... to wander in.
CPT TAYLOR: To get fire from the village or they started to take heavy casualties on us, we'll say we'll just draw a circle and just say eliminate them. "Airborne!" So, but, of course, we had the sophistication and maturity, you know, we have Americans going in and we stuck to that, which was, you know, very, very good on our part, very disciplined soldiers, and we do not go around shooting up everything. So we did a very good job as far as that's concerned.
We knew our objectives, knew the rules of engagement, and stuck by those religiously.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything ... I know we have ranged pretty far and fast over everything ... anything I failed to ask you about that you think is important? Anything, say, from a professional artilleryman's standpoint? Doctrinally, were you prepared for low-intensity conflict of the type that we ran into down there?
CPT TAYLOR: Yes. Yes, I was. And I'd say that's because of the training I received here more so than the training I received at Fort Sill. Had I just come from Fort Sill and the advanced course, was made FSO of 1/504, and went into Tinajitas with that knowledge, then I think it would have been a much different, you know, Dave Taylor doing a much different fire support effort that went into that particular thing, because Fort Sill teaches you the book.
I have had the opportunity to work to see how it works in the 82d. A lot of communications with aircraft. At Fort Sill, you're taught cannon artillery, you know, I mean cannon, cannon, cannon, cannon, cannon, or very little except for a brief class on CAS [close air support]. O.K., that's an aircraft, these are the call signs, this is your ALO; let's move on to some more on tube artillery. Because of the associations we had here and the knowledge of what the air can do for us is why we were so successful at, you know, Fort Sill. And as a matter of fact, it was because of that and only that from my prior experience here, and of course LTC Gottardi's work, etc., and his emphasis on training, that got us through that.
Had I came out of Fort Sill and went in directly into that, it would have been a far different situation. It would not have been as confident, would not have been as successful, I think.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that something that could be put into the advanced course, or is it just too much material to try to cram into them at that point?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, you've got a trade-off, you know.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: You look at the number of light divisions you have, you know, vis-a-vis the number of heavy divisions, and you look at the guys who are going to be going to the light division vis-a-vis the number going to the heavy division. You got the 82d; 7th ID; a Ranger battalion, fire support of course provided internal there. They don't have any fire support other than air, and so the Ranger battalion does not have any organic artillery. So they have nothing but air.
So I think that, you know, perhaps another class or two, but the training focus has got to be on the individual unit and tailored there. And that's why this was so successful--in that we tailored that training here to the type of battle we'd encounter.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of METL [mission-essential task list] tasks and stuff like that, had you guys been pretty much been right on the button? I know as I have talked to a lot of the leadership, I have had battalion commanders tell me that as they sat back and assessed and did their hot wash, they realized every last item that they had on their METL list, they actually did in Panama. And they were feeling that that's a pretty good sign of how good the staffs are and the leadership is, that they were able to correctly identify as they developed METL task lists, what it was they really actually needed.
Do you see anything that maybe you would feel, based on Panama, you'd fight harder to get onto a METL?
CPT TAYLOR: No. As a matter of fact, I'd say that was quite the opposite. Based on Panama, I put training into two categories. I have to put into what we train for in peacetime into a METL category that's easily accessible, and I'd put what we do in combat as more common sense application to the current situation.
As a matter of fact, we came back from Panama, went down to Panama again for jungle school, then went through a twelve-day EXEVAL. I'd say that as far as going through the METL on the EXEVAL, it was tougher than in Panama because on the EXEVAL you're going to have somebody come up there and talk about this, that, and the other. In Panama, all we had to do was win and go back and tell others who weren't there how we did that, you know.
So I'd say that one must maintain a sense of common sense application to the rules at hand and not worry about, well, on the METL, you know, this is ... you know, what do we do?
DR. WRIGHT: Was this a go or a no-go?
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Exactly. In other words, common sense application. And infantrymen were like that as well, you know. They didn't break out and say, "Well, goodness gracious, I'm going to get a no-go here because I don't have my range card out to 1,200 meters." This sort of thing. They went up there: there's the target, let's deal with that. And I would say that it's the common sense approach to realism that is most important amongst all levels of actually engaging in combat.
DR. WRIGHT: One off-the-wall question. Tinajitas becomes one of those check marks on the VIP dog-and-pony-show route. Do you see many of those crews come floating through?
CPT TAYLOR: Not until after everything was calm.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes. Oh, always after it calms down.
CPT TAYLOR: Well, it's ironic, though, because once we had the power turned on, we came up there, the power was off at the compound. They had electricity, etc. There were several color TVs up there. We watched in amazement, as a matter of fact, the film from Panama City--what was going on. We're up there, you know, by this time, you know, drinking water out of our canteens and our MREs coming in, and we're saying, "Well, golly, that's pretty heavy intensive stuff."
DR. WRIGHT: The 105[mm howitzer] in direct-[fire] mode down there at Fort Amador?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, yes, they did, as a matter of fact, on the golf course shooting directly into the barracks. But we're watching this on television, saying, "Gosh, this is pretty intense." And we didn't get anybody up to see us. Nobody filmed, you know, what we did per se because it was not "safe" for the reporters to be up there. So in that respect, like I said, we looked at those guys, what they were doing, in amazement. We were doing the same thing in Tinajitas--unrecorded.
DR. WRIGHT: Then later on, I guess, after things calm down, then you start getting the politicians and the senior officers coming through?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, we never got the politicians. But we got some of the senior officers, of course, from [GEN Edwin] Burba. MG Johnson was coming through us throughout.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
CPT TAYLOR: As a matter of fact, he was ducking rounds coming in because every time a helicopter came, we'd get shelled.
DR. WRIGHT: They'd get shelled.
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. So, you know, MG Johnson, you know, as up there ducking rounds coming in out of his helicopter; you know, COL [Jack] Nix was, you know, ducking rounds coming in his helicopter. But GEN Burba, you know, those kind of guys didn't get up there until after it was calm, with the reporters, you know. Then we had the crews, I mean many crews came up there at that time, walking around in their shirtsleeves. They even had women reporters come up there. So by the time it was that calm, then we got all the reporters coming up there and say, "Geez, how was it," etc., etc., etc.
DR. WRIGHT: Did they get in the way?
CPT TAYLOR: No, they did not, because by the time they got up there, you know, it was pretty much, you know, under control anyway. So they did not. By the time they came, they did not get in the way, no, they did not.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you notice that after the initial glow of being in the limelight sort of fades, do the troops start getting tired of getting asked the same question for the 250th time?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, no, not really, because, you know, it was a plan developed at battalion level where as the CNN cameras or whatever came up there would not be directed to the same element every time. So we had a plan where ... as, O.K., the S-1 was given a mission. O.K., we got another film crew. O.K., take them up to 1st Platoon [of] Alpha [Company]; take them up to 1st Platoon [of] Bravo.
DR. WRIGHT: And whose idea was that? Was that LTC Marable's idea to ...
CPT TAYLOR: It was LTC Marable's direction. I don't know if, you know, the XO advised him that in private or what. But he directed that when the crews come up there, that an officer go down, take charge of that crew, and then direct them around to different elements so that everybody would have their chance to get in the limelight.
So it never had the opportunity to get, you know, repetitious questions because you had ...
DR. WRIGHT: Or never had the opportunity to have destructive jealousy bred within the task force by, "Well, how come they're always talking to 1st Platoon?"
CPT TAYLOR: Exactly. Because there was a battalion plan where an officer went down and escorted them from the gate and directed them up to a specific element, you know, to talk to. And of course, they all had free roam, but they were always escorted around the areas and always directed to who they wanted to interview: one platoon here, one element here, one element there. So that was battalion plan to allocate, like I said, the "cheese time," as we said, on that.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else you can think of?
CPT TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, we've covered pretty much everything, you know, about the action. But, you know, one thing or two things that come out of this, you know, that you think about after listening, is that ... . You know, one thing is that freedom is not free. You know, freedom is definitely not free, and regardless of the geographical location between Fort Bragg and anywhere else in the world--regardless of that geographical location--we always stand, even as we speak right now, only one presidential decision and 500 feet away.
DR. WRIGHT: That's a good quote. Appreciate your taking the time, CPT Taylor.
CPT TAYLOR: Roger.
[END OF INTERVIEW]