DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
UNITED STATES ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview
LTC Lynn D. Moore
Commander, 3d Battalion, 504th Infantry
Interview conducted 29 May 1990 in the Headquarters of the 3d Battalion, 504th Infantry, 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 077
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., this is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted on 29 May 1990, in the Headquarters of the Third Battalion 504th Infantry at 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 start off with giving me your full name, rank and serial number?
LTC MOORE: It's LTC Lynn David Moore, ***-**-****.
DR. WRIGHT: And you are the battalion commander, sir?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: If I could get you to sort of start me off, sir, with a 'one over the world' on when you received notification that the battalion was going to conduct a jungle operations deployment.
LTC MOORE: Well, that was a ... originally we were not scheduled to go down until February, and then when the new Brigade Commander took command in October ...
DR. WRIGHT: That's COL [Jack] Nix?
LTC MOORE: COL Nix. He looked at the line-up of JRTC [Joint Readiness Training Center] and JRTX [joint readiness training exercises] and all the different requirements we had in the [1st] Brigade, so he made a realignment. And also about that time, we got ... we were notified in the [82d Airborne] Division that we just picked up another JOTC [Jungle Operations Training Center] rotation, JWC [Jungle Warfare Center] rotation, down in Panama, which is the December rotation which the Marines had dropped. So we were the lucky ones, we thought at the time, to get picked to go down to JOTC, starting the 10th of December, going through Christmas and lasting until about the 20th of January.
DR. WRIGHT: At that time, were you aware of the fact that there was the additional mission responsibility, that contingency mission responsibility?
LTC MOORE: Yes, we were. We had already had battalions in there who had gone through the planning steps that had occurred down there. Jerry Watson and his battalion had come back and gone through most of the planning that was required for this effort.
DR. WRIGHT: And which battalion was that, sir?
LTC MOORE: I think Jerry has the 1st [Battalion] of the 05[th Infantry].
DR WRIGHT: O.K.. As you ... as you start preparing the battalion to go down there, what specific training objectives did you have while you were still back here at [Fort] Bragg to get ready for this mission?
LTC MOORE: Well, we had nothing clearly in mind, because you have to understand that the contingency plans were kept at such a high level that we knew nothing about what was going to go on down there. As a matter of fact, the battalion commanders here at Fort Bragg were not briefed on their missions in Panama; they were withheld at the brigade level. And when I went down there to Panama on a site survey, about a month before we deployed, I asked for a battalion-level missions so we could start some kind of train-up, and they said no. They said they were still too highly classified for us to know.
So we proceeded with intensified training period that would include night live-fire attacks, at both platoon and company level; some MOUT [military operations on urbanized terrain] training. And as it turns out, we started ... at the end of the JUST CAUSE we looked back to see how better could we have prepared than what we did. It turned out that we ... just by chance, picked all the right subjects to do.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the training conditions here at Bragg, you have MOUT operations which you had identified as a high probability for Panama?
LTC MOORE: Not really for Panama, it's just high probability for contingency operations that might possibly go down.
DR. WRIGHT: And then a lot of getting out onto the nether regions of post to practice breaking brush and stuff like that?
LTC MOORE: Some. We did company level movements to contact during that intensified training period. Like I said, we did both the platoon-level and company-level night live-fire raids. And probably those three missions: MOUT, movement to contact and searching-type missions and area clearing operations, and the live-fire raids were the three operations we performed.
DR. WRIGHT: Live-fire: in terms of ammunition availability, were there constraints placed on you back here that impeded your training, or were you pretty much given whatever you needed?
LTC MOORE: We didn't have some of the exotic ammunition that we could have gotten on our actual operation. The Rangers, for instance, did not allow us to use frag[mentation] grenades, which we know now is a real training deficit, because we took a lot of frag wounds down there. But as far as small arms and live-fire mortar and that sort of thing, it was pretty much understood.
DR. WRIGHT: As you put together the battalion package that goes down, are you pretty much allowed to bring your entire battalion, or do you have to leave certain things back?
LTC MOORE: Well, on this rotation ... normally the entire Fort Sherman facility is dedicated to the JWC battalion that's down there. In the sense [that] there was already the 3d Brigade of the 7th I[nfantry] D[ivision] there and one of their battalions (the 4th [Battalion] of the 17th [Infantry]), they were taking up a certain amount of room already, so we were pretty much limited in our task force to what we could sleep with 600-beds.
We started looking at who we normally take with us on a deployment. We really had to go heavy with infantry force, which meant that some of our slice did not get to deploy with us like they normally would.
DR. WRIGHT: Who, for a slice, did you take down?
LTC MOORE: Took a squad of riggers to support our airborne operations.
DR. WRIGHT: Out of which companies?
LTC MOORE: The S&T battalion [407th Supply and Service Battalion], I'm not sure ... it's our own 82d riggers. Took a squad plus of our Three-Quarter [3d Battalion, 4th] Air Defense Artillery personnel, those kind of pay-back things. Took all our fire support.
DR. WRIGHT: Out of 3d [Battalion] of the 319th [Field Artillery]?
LTC MOORE: Yes, out of Charlie battery, but none of the ... none of the artillery men themselves with their tubes. And some MPs [military police].
DR. WRIGHT: Out of the division? Out of the division [82d Military Police] Company?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you take any MI [military intelligence] assets?
LTC MOORE: No, just our own S-2.
DR. WRIGHT: And no additional personnel from PSYOPS [psychological operations] or any of those areas?
LTC MOORE: No, there was no space.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.. Did you take all of ... did you take any of your vehicles, or did you draw vehicles down there?
LTC MOORE: We were allowed one. Let's see, we flew down on two ... let's see, two L-1011s [civilian airliners] for personnel, we had one additional C-141 for the PAX [personnel] drop which is all the wrong people. We had one KC-10 that came down; I believe they allowed us four HMMWVs [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles] or so.
DR. WRIGHT: So you leave your TOW [Tube-launched, Optically-controlled, Wire-guided antitank missile] systems behind and just go with the stuff you can carry?
LTC MOORE: Or [INAUDIBLE].
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of individual weapons and crew-served weapons, you took everything up through your mortars?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Those are: at company level, the 60[mm]s; and then your heavy weapons as the new 81[mm]s, the blue chip ones?
LTC MOORE: Yes. Well, the line companies have M-16s, M-203s, and M-249 SAWs [squad automatic weapons]; six M-60 machine guns and there are 60mm mortars internal [to the rifle companies]. And the Headquarters Company had additionally six sniper systems (both the M-24 and M-21), and the 81mm mortars--we took all six of them. We also went heavy--took all thirteen of our assigned [M-2] .50-caliber machine guns. That was through cross-loading on pallets [INAUDIBLE].
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of what was made available to you once you got down there, could you draw additional vehicles?
LTC MOORE: No, what we took is all we ended up with. We were fortunate the 7th ID for support (once we transferred our base of operations to Fort Sherman)--that was on the 20th [of December]--when we were in the attack down to Gamboa, which is closer to our center sector, they gave us I think it was six two and a half ton trucks that were permanently attached to us. They went through all our operations with the six two and a half tons, plus about two trips daily with LCMs.
DR. WRIGHT: The LCM-8s out of the [1097th] Transportation Company?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. And between those two assets, we were able to complete everything.
DR. WRIGHT: You fly down on the 10th of December?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Getting in ... leaving from Pope [Air Force Base]?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. It was a ... it took us about three days to deploy down, but from the time the first L-1011 took off until the time the last one flew [INAUDIBLE], which was a Saturday morning we went.
DR. WRIGHT: And assemble at Sherman and go into the normal jungle warfare training program, where your troops and the officers go off to do planning?
LTC MOORE: Well, it was a ... it was more that we took the staff aside. In those first few days it was just ... it was almost continuous planning on the staff's part, reviewing intelligence on the target folders we had, which were very complete, very good target folders prepared by the S-2 section of the 7th ID. And once we had developed our plans, we almost immediately had to start executing the crisis response exercises (the CREs).
DR. WRIGHT: The SAND FLEAS?
LTC MOORE: The SAND FLEAS. And so really we were kind of divided between trying to develop the contingency operation that we wanted to execute--if we executed any operation there--and also preparing each company for their different CRE. And, if my mind serves me correctly, the last people arrived like Monday night, and our first CRE was Tuesday night. So we had almost a 24-hour cycle there of planning the CRE, executing the CRE, doing the after-action review on that, adjusting the contingency plan to fit our lessons-learned, and then executing 24 hours later the next CRE. So we had a week there that was that sort of cycle; planning for the next CRE, adjusting the plan, and all that time, we're executing the individual skills training that's given by the JOTC.
DR. WRIGHT: So that was primarily left to the NCOs--to break down into the squads and platoons and do that sort of thing?
LTC MOORE: Well, it pretty much was, if you consider that the battalion staff planned the CRE, issued the order to the commander and the officers, then they would have to begin immediately in their troop leading steps to get the company ready for the CRE. People will have to understand that the CRE was just not a walk through the woods. The CREs were [executed] with live ammunition, weapons loaded, exercising ... trying to provoke a response from the P.D.F. who occupied the targets that we went to. And we visited every target in some sort of semblance of our contingency plan mode, two or three nights before we actually did JUST CAUSE.
And I'll tell you that the intensity or the tension, particularly when we went through El Renacer Prison, was much higher during the CRE than it was when we actually executed it on the 20th.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the missions you were given when you arrived, the brigade commander tells you what your missions are or assigns you to your targets?
LTC MOORE: He ... we ... because of the secrecy involved, we did not arrive in our first deployment package with the correct cross load. I came in, my S-3 came in, the XO was bringing up the tail. We brought only two company commanders with us, so they immediately set what was available there down in the briefing room and briefed each of our missions to us. So we knew from the start what the targets were and we had the intelligence that had already been gathered, but we didn't have a complete battalion until, like I said, Monday evening.
But we were fortunate in the fact that the ... that the first CRE we executed was Madden Dam and Delta company was one of the early-deploying units. So we could start them immediately into their troop-leading for the CRE that occurred first. The second one we did was down at the Cerro Tigre logistics site and it just happened that the B Company commander and his company came in on the first load.
DR. WRIGHT: That assigning of targets was fortunate rather than preplanned?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, it was fortunate in a way, but it was not merely just a matter of luck. What we had was the Bravo Company and Delta Company commanders on the ground at the start. The Delta Company commander ... the obvious mission for him because of the cross-country travel down the highways and the--what appeared to be a smaller force requirement at Madden Dam--was the automatic choice for Madden Dam.
Now the Marines who had planned the mission before us did not have a Delta Company. The infantry companies had gone down to ... the infantry battalions who had gone down before had not considered using their Delta Companies, pretty much infantry or military police. So that was a little ...
DR. WRIGHT: That's your innovation that comes in, of taking that technique and approaching it that way?
LTC MOORE: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: So you're not ... you're not taking the cookie-cutter plan that somebody else has stamped out, and just executing it.
LTC MOORE: No.
DR. WRIGHT: You had the freedom to adjust?
LTC MOORE: Oh, absolutely. The target stayed the same. But our TOE [table of organization and equipment] would not support what the Marine TOE might. And this was a really good economy of force operation to put a Delta Company out there, two platoons from Delta Company. That freed up more of my infantry for the more infantry-intensive missions.
Now the Bravo Company commander was there and sat through the briefing. He was the only of the three line company commanders that was there, so he got to pick. He was about the only guy that got to choose what he wanted to do and I admire him. He chose Cerro Tigre the logistics site. And because it was the most complex target, it was the largest, had the most buildings, and it was also the most heavily defended. It was briefed by the S-2, that it was defended by an equivalent of an infantry company. So he volunteered to take his company one-on-one against the P.D.F. Didn't turn out that way, but he certainly had good reason to pick the target.
DR. WRIGHT: Then how do you arrive at the assignment of the other two company-size targets, which are Gamboa proper, and El Renacer Prison?
LTC MOORE: Well, I think any one of my companies could have taken any one of the targets there. They're pretty much level on what they can do. Just looking at the personalities of the commanders, some of the past performance on particular missions, it is really a toss-up between Gamboa and Renacer. I knew Renacer, particularly after the CRE, when we went there, when we were face to face ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... eyeball to eyeball ...
LTC MOORE: ... with the guard force that was there, it was obvious that that was going to be a real shootout, when we went there for real, and Charlie company and two platoons--it was a great choice for that target. A very aggressive company commander, who on the night of the CRE stood toe to toe with the P.D.F. lieutenant colonel and backed him down. Just a little anecdote there.
And then the Alpha Company commander [CPT Peter Boylan, Jr.], who is a very steady individual, company is very steady. And we had a big chance to lose big time at Renacer Prison, but also Gamboa was the only target that we had that had American families on the target. So we really had to show a great deal of restraint there, because no matter what we did throughout the rest of the country, if we harmed a single American or damaged a single American home, then it was all for naught. So each target had its own peculiarities.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were fortunate in having company commanders whose personalities matched nicely with the target requirements?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, I think that's pretty much how it turned out.
DR. WRIGHT: All right, now you also had three smaller missions. Can you tell me how you arrived at those--your task organization to accomplish those three smaller missions?
LTC MOORE: Well, we didn't know much about those targets, since they were not in our battalion A0 [area of operations], so the initial tasking was for infantry platoons in three different locations. My own analysis of where we were going in our own A0 ... I went to the brigade commander and said, you know, I think I need to swap out to get some more of my infantry platoons. So they were very good, the commander especially, saying O.K., this is the mission they have and you know your people, you know your organization, so I trust that the force you put on that target will be sufficient to accomplish it.
So we looked at the Espinar target, analyzed the mission there as being a blocking mission, and figured that our composite platoon would be best for that since it seemed like it would be a static mission, but it turned out not to be that. They actually attacked the School of the Americas there and cleared the building. So they ...
DR. WRIGHT: That's the one you gave to your Headquarters Company commander, with the composite rifle platoon made up of your riggers and your ... ?
LTC MOORE: Air defense, cooks, typists and really a mish-mash of everything that was left back at Fort Sherman after the infantry went out. The other [was the] roadblock at Coco Solo Hospital. We gave that--because it would not require building clearing and MOUT operations--we gave that to two platoons from Delta Company, because there was less infantry involved in that one.
DR. WRIGHT: And you could use the heavier fire power of Delta Company to ...
LTC MOORE: The [M-2] .50-cals.; we had those at the roadblock. There ... you know the lieutenants in my Delta Company are all former infantry platoon leaders. The Delta companies now have a very significant addition to their mission of doing calvary missions, which includes dismounted reconnaissance and patrolling. So they were ... they weren't untrained, but I could have put them in a situation where they'd have a lot of difficulty if I'd committed them to an urban environment.
DR. WRIGHT: Simply because they had too few people to cover?
LTC MOORE: Too few people and not the level of training that my other infantry teams have. And they have since done a lot more of that--since we came back. And the third platoon, they pretty much put their foot down and said this needs to be an infantry platoon. So we looked at the size of the target down there, at each of the different locations, and saw how large the city of Gamboa was and the requirements not only to clear the city but to secure the American end of it at the same time. See, that obviously had to go to the full infantry company. And it ended up that the size of the target at Renacer Prison pretty much meant that all we could put on the ground at the first--right at the first at H-Hour--was two platoons, so that determined who we freed up at to go out to Coco Solo.
DR. WRIGHT: Coco Solo?
LTC MOORE: Well, they call it Coco Solo, but it's Cristobal High School, I think it's called more often.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.. Yes. Which is up at the Naval Infantry barracks?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, the brigade commander at this time was COL?
LTC MOORE: Kellogg.
DR. WRIGHT: COL Keith Kellogg?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And that's 1st Brigade, 7th ID?
LTC MOORE: 3d Brigade.
DR. WRIGHT: 3d Brigade, 7th ID. And then the 4/17th battalion commander that you chopped your people to was who?
LTC MOORE: [LTC] Johnny Brooks.
DR. WRIGHT: December 15th Noriega makes his speech, his inflammatory speech, declares a state of war exists and everything. Does that impact immediately on the battalion?
LTC MOORE: It certainly caught our attention, but it was explained, I think very well, in the fact that this was not a declaration of war, it was a statement that a state of war existed. We explained to the troops--tried to explain to them--the difference between the two. I think what really started to raise our tension level were the incidents with the Marines.
DR. WRIGHT: When LT [Robert] Paz was shot?
LTC MOORE: Then the man and his wife were taken prisoner roughly in the same vicinity.
DR. WRIGHT: Which is on the 16th?
LTC MOORE: That's correct, the 16th.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you get your hints that the possibility of executing has risen dramatically? Is it with the shooting incidents?
LTC MOORE: With the shooting incident ... let's see ... I think it's either ... . The 17th, we canceled training. We said until something dies down or something goes away, we'll no longer train with the JOTC. We pull our troops back and began ... by that time each soldier in every company had seen their target on the CRE. So we began a period of very intense and detailed rehearsals based on the target.
We had our company commanders scouring the area to try to find like buildings that they could go into. We had engineer tape replicas--not scale models, the actual size of the targets we were going into--and rehearsals began, so that every soldier essentially knew exactly what his job was when we went in at H-Hour. So we rehearsed the 17th.
And the 18th, COL Kellogg called me into his office--the evening of the 18th--and he was even afraid to say the word. He wrote it--he wrote the daytime group on a piece of paper--said no one is to know. I said fine, so we didn't tell anybody.
We only ... I guess the only hint I gave to the battalion was that I had enforced bedtime lights out at 10:00 o'clock last night and surprised several of my company commanders with how irate I was, when they weren't asleep at 10:00 o'clock that night. [LAUGHTER] They're just ... just typical kids, wanting to do the best job they can and they put all their troops asleep, but all the leaders would be assembled in some room. They're war-gaming their operation, trying to make sure they knew ... had thought of absolutely everything to do and I admired them for doing that, but me having already been given the H-Hour, I shut their lights down to make sure they got a good night's sleep.
Then we were allowed to tell them ... I think it was 2100 hours the night of the [19th].
DR. WRIGHT: About the same time as the rest of the in-country forces were allowed to pass the word?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the four assaults you have to make: you've got the air mobile into Gamboa, you've got a combined air mobile and LCM attack detail into El Renacer ...
LTC MOORE: No, actually Gamboa was also a combined air assault and LCM.
DR. WRIGHT: Air assault into Cerro Tigre. And do you have any aircraft going on up to Madden Dam or is that a cross-country movement?
LTC MOORE: That's a cross country move and even though the combined LCM beach landing/air assaults sounds pretty ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... high speed?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, pretty high speed, the real dangerous move was the Delta Company move to Madden Dam. Because they had to start their movement toward ...
DR. WRIGHT: Fort Davis is the one on the east side of the [Panama] Canal.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, they had to ... in order for them to hit at 1:00 O'clock, they had to depart Fort Davis at 2330, and they had to depart Fort Sherman to make sure that they didn't get stuck behind some ship going through the [Gatun] Locks at about 2200 hours. So as soon as I told their commander, he had to go tell his troops to get on the trucks, you know, we got no delay time here at all.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, you had six deuce and a halfs [2 1/2-ton trucks] to carry them?
LTC MOORE: No, we had ... let's see, they went over there in ... let's see, they had four, I believe, MP vehicles, a command and control vehicle, and either two or three deuce and a halfs as part of their convoy going to Madden Dam. That's a long road getting over there, that's a hour and a half drive.
DR. WRIGHT: Through pretty appallingly primitive roads?
LTC MOORE: Yes, there's that, and there are in three major P.D.F. checkpoints between the two. And at 2300 hours we heard the broadcast on the P.D.F. channel that they knew the attack was imminent, and they announced 1:00 o'clock as being the time that 'the party was going to occur.' They had already issued orders that any Americans interfering with any of their operations would be shot.
And so I had to tell this company commander that not only did you have to drive, but he had to lie his way through any check-points he got to, saying he was either lost or whatever, that he ... unless they shot at him, he could not engage them for any reason, because that would have compromised the ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... your H-Hour.
LTC MOORE: That's right. And he asked for air covering--an air cap--for his movement. I said 'I'm sorry. We don't ... as a normal course, we don't divide air cap for the convoys. You're on your own. We'll be on strip alert, call us if you have a problem.' [LAUGHTER]
So that's a ... that was a tense hour and a half for that.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were able to monitor them throughout? Good commo with them, or did you have problems?
LTC MOORE: It wasn't great, but we heard ... we heard his ... he had about three or four check-points to report, and we heard enough of those to know that he was on schedule and on time. By the time we launched the Fort Sherman with the air assault, of course, I was in the OH-58 [Kiowa] with definite ... the communications center went off the ground, got commo with everything, found that everything was a little ahead of schedule, is what it was.
DR. WRIGHT: So you had to slow him down?
LTC MOORE: He ... what he did is, he arrived ahead of schedule and pulled off short of the Dam. He went into a kind of hiding position to wait for H-Hour.
DR. WRIGHT: Why don't we ... just talk me through the salient points, as you see them, on each one of the H-Hour assaults, and take it in the order that's most convenient for you, sir.
LTC MOORE: O.K. Pretty much chronologically, the aircraft -- at least the [CH-47C] Chinooks flew in the night of the 18th; we got the rest of our air package late on the 19th; had a final air mission brief just about a half an hour prior to launch. Now, even though we launched out of Sherman at H minus 20 minutes to make our air assaults, as I described before, Delta Company had left an hour and a half before that, en route. They were committed and gone.
The three platoons I had attached to the 4th of the 17th had gone at H minus 2, so they were already committed to the fight. And my Charlie Company, the majority of which was traveling by LCM, plus my assault CP with my S-3, my FSO [fire support officer], my medical platoon, my mortar platoon, and a squad of MPs, were all in a second LCM headed for Gamboa. So all of those things committed at H minus 2 hours.
So we had our final air mission brief, and then took off with the aircraft, for the assault at twenty minutes prior. The first place that I went was to Renacer Prison.
DR. WRIGHT: Now you alluded to the fact that you were on an
OH-58. [Was it a] Charlie model? Was that the aircraft that was being flown by the aviation battalion, or the command and control ship, of the aviation battalion commander?
LTC MOORE: No, he was flying a ... the aviation battalion commander was flying a UH-1 with a console board, the bird that had the brigade commander on board. I had been briefed earlier that that was to be my command and control aircraft, but he very rightly took it and I had a OH-58. One advantage, the [OH]-58 only had one FM radio on it so I could stay on the FM frequency, and if the brigade commander wanted a report, he'd come talk to me, or the reports [were] relayed through my assault CP in the LCM.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., resuming the tape. Like I said, sir, the air mission for the Gamboa and El Renacer ... . As I understand it from the aviators' side of it indicated that they would come down the Chagres River, come in using the hill that sits behind Gamboa to screen it, and then would drop down into their targets that way?
LTC MOORE: Well, the air route for Cerro Tigre came this side, came in.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.
LTC MOORE: That's an air route that I did not know about. The one I briefed them on was to use Madden Dam as a check-point and then orient on the Chagres River down. What happened with Renacer Prison is we had three UH-1s in trail, coming down the Chagres River towards the southwest, and we had these other three aircraft in trail coming down the Panama Canal. All right, at H minus 15 seconds, the three aircraft on the Canal came to a hover over the Canal. The [AH-1G] Cobra turned in and engaged what we call the guardhouse, with the 20mm canon.
DR. WRIGHT: Which is the one to the southern extremity or southwestern extremity of the compound?
LTC MOORE: Yes, yes. The OH-58 that was the scout helicopter stopped just near a hill to the almost due north of the ... .
DR. WRIGHT: Almost up to the bridge?
LTC MOORE: Not quite the bridge, it's like southeast of the bridge, there's a high ... high ground just to the north of the prison, and the guard tower that was behind the prison. So it stopped--kind of masked by the hill--but where the sniper he had on board that was from Charlie company could engage the guard tower. They then ... I stopped with my [OH]-58 directly opposite the prison and put some M-16 fire into the headquarters building and the ...
DR. WRIGHT: And the quarters?
LTC MOORE: And the quarters there, just because we had no other asset that could fire on them. The plan was that that would start at H minus 15 seconds, and would cover the first two UH-1s. [INTERRUPTION] The first two UH-1[H]s coming down the Chagres River carried eleven people on board each one of them.
DR. WRIGHT: And these are seats-out aircraft, full combat loading?
LTC MOORE: Yes. Yes. Well they had really a tricky flight to make because this railroad track that runs right next to Renacer Prison has about a 100-foot tall power line that goes with it. You know, just a multiple power line thing, so what the UH-1 pilots had to do was come in, make 180 degree turn and then come in over the top of the power lines and still sit down into the prison compound.
DR. WRIGHT: Inside the wire?
LTC MOORE: Inside the wire, which is about--I don't know if you got to see the place--but it's about a quarter of the size of a football field.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, as described to me by the lead pilot there was enough room for the two helicopter rotors and maybe about fifteen feet clearance.
LTC MOORE: That was about it.
[PAUSE IN TAPE]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., resuming, sir. So the two UH-1s were to deposit the command element from the company?
LTC MOORE: No, it was a Platoon Leader, [1LT] Chris Oswald, and two infantry squads. And their mission was ... we knew that if all else failed that we needed to make sure that whatever prisoners were in the prison compound ... we didn't know ... they couldn't ever tell us whether they were Americans, Panamanians, just pure criminals, or even how many there were. We knew that we had to secure them and then those two squads would just defend in place inside the compound until either the rest of Charlie Company freed them--came to their rescue--or we had to come with some other force, depending on how many P.D.F. guards were there. But as it turned out, the two UH-1s went inside the compound, that third UH-1 that was in trail coming down the Chagres carried a scout platoon. They dropped off north of the prison compound at another landing dock out there. Then they moved overland and secured the front gate to make sure no reinforcements came through the front gate or that anyone escaped out that front gate either.
DR. WRIGHT: Which of those two possibilities did you rate as more likely? Did somebody try to get away rather than somebody trying to get in?
LTC MOORE: Actually, they're almost equally likely, because when we did the CRE, they were reinforced very quickly by the police elements from Balboa. At least the police cars had Balboa on them. So we thought that either one could happen, depending on how much action was occurring down in Panama City. We knew for sure some of the P.D.F. guards would be trying to come out the back gate, anyway.
So we had the two squads inside the compound, the scout squad blocking the front gate, and then the company commander, his command group, and a reinforced infantry platoon that cleared the rest of the compound.
DR. WRIGHT: Coming up from the LCM.
LTC MOORE: Coming up from the LCM. That was a ... just watching from my command and control perch sitting over the Canal ... I've seen fire fights like that in Vietnam on a fire base, maybe, with bullets just flying everywhere. But I think it's really a tribute to how well-trained that element was and how conscious they were of directions of attack and directions of fire--which they had developed in training back here at Fort Bragg--that they could have all those bullets and they were all going away from all the rest of the Americans.
DR. WRIGHT: As I understand it, the fine tuning ... you know, the seconds, timing ... got a little tight. The LCM initially tried ... he had problems getting his ramp lowered and had to reposition himself?
LTC MOORE: Really, a couple things went wrong, when you say about just the minute timing. The Cobra with the 20mm was late, and that's ... . I don't know if that's pilot error. The pilot, in my opinion, showed a ... either a reluctance or not quite the attitude that I wanted him to have at the air mission brief, and I had to talk to him about that. So he was late, and the LCM had already hit the dock. He had hit left of the dock, had to reposition and come back in on it, before the Cobra opened fire. So it was late. And I think perhaps even the UH-1s were already on the ground, when he opened up.
DR. WRIGHT: If they weren't on the ground--according to the pilots --if they weren't on the ground, they were only feet away from the ground, because they thought that the Cobra had opened up late.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, for sure they were late. What we wanted was the Cobra pretty much to cease fire. He was trying to cover the LCM. And his direction of fire was such that he was firing away from the landing position that the UH-1s were going into. But watching his fire, it was very erratic, and he had either ricochets or he was changing his direction of fire so there were 20mm rounds going a lot of different places. I think we were fortunate in that regard that we didn't take any of our own rounds.
DR. WRIGHT: Door gunners firing on the UH-1s as they touched down?
LTC MOORE: It was ... that was highly controlled, also. Fire control was ... we knew from the start, fire control was going to be one of our major things. And I actually told all my company commanders that if we didn't kill ourselves, we'd probably come out of it without anyone being killed.
The door gunners on the right doors were allowed to fire once they crossed the railroad track. So it was a very visible line there that they could fire beyond, because there were no friendly troops in there. Once the helicopters hit the ground, all door gunners had to cease fire. Once they lifted up, then only the left door gunners should fire, and they could only fire beyond the main prison building. And that was essentially to cover the guard tower on the far side.
DR. WRIGHT: That far side guard tower, yeah. Described to me by the aviators as sort of something they would go over as they lifted off and proceeded out towards the Chagres River.
LTC MOORE: Yes, that's correct. So that, you know, that was tightly controlled. No one was allowed to fire inside the prison compound once the UH-1s touched down, except for the people who were within the compound. They were not allowed to fire outside the compound at any targets. So we had some very clear lines there, some very high fences.
And then, even when [1LT] Chuck Broadus brought his platoon in to start the clearing operation for the remainder of the buildings--which were, as you faced the target from the Canal, were to the right; which included the guard house that the Cobra fired on and sixteen other buildings that were part of the prison complex--they first penetrated to the center of the target by cutting through a major chain link fence with bayonets.
DR. WRIGHT: They used the new ... the M-9 bayonets?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. Yeah, and it was tough cutting too, because that's heavy gauge wire. They about wore two privates out getting through that fence. But they still did not change their plan. They still penetrated to the center of the target, then began attacking out and away from the prison compound. So even when they were engaged with the P.D.F. guard force in clearing buildings, they were still firing away from the prisoners that we were trying to protect down there at the compound. So it was a very tightly controlled operation.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, is this a technique of getting inside and then exploding out something that you train on normally, or is this something you developed just for this operation?
LTC MOORE: Well, I hate to think that ... I hate to seem like I'm advertising something, but last Infantry Magazine I had an article in the Infantry Magazine on a night attack, or an attack technique that we call in the battalion 'star burst.' And this is exactly what it talks about: that we make the breach, penetrate to the center of the target, and attack outwards from there. And my ... it's taken us a while to develop the technique, but all my commanders now are really sold on that's the way to go about a target. And you see elements of that in all of our targets.
DR. WRIGHT: Applied on the other targets as well?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the view you have sitting out over the Canal on the [OH]-58, do you feel in the first couple of minutes comfortable that this target is going to go down well?
LTC MOORE: I had my doubts. I thought it was going to be a tough fight. I was concerned that we would have to
do that we would have to use explosive breach to get inside the main prison building, and that if we had to use grenades and small arms inside the prison compound that we may have injured some of the prisoners in there. That didn't happen. It was ... I never really had any doubt that we would take the targets. But the amount of fire that was being delivered there, you know, was just massive small arms fire going on throughout the air and they must have fired ten or fifteen AT-4s and LAWs [M-72A2 Light Antitank Weapons] in the initial assaults, in the breaches and everything. I think the fact that we came out of there with, really, no one killed and only very few wounded, was really a tribute to the rehearsals and getting to see the target and the training they had back here at Bragg.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the defense of the prison, did the Panamanians put up about the type of struggle you expect? Do they hold out longer? Do they do anything that you didn't anticipate?
LTC MOORE: Not really. We killed five that night, we captured thirteen or fourteen more the next day. Where we really were lucky, I think, was that the guard house up here, that we thought the 20mm cannon ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... would take out ...
LTC MOORE: ... would destroy, had very little damage to it. There was a couple of AT-4 blasts in the side of it, but not ... . I think, with the twelve members of the guard force that were in there and were armed with AK[-47]s, probably what made them give up the fight were the AT-4s hitting the side of the building. But they decided just to get underneath their beds and ...
DR. WRIGHT: And wait it out?
LTC MOORE: ... and wait it out. And we didn't find them until the next morning. If they had decided to fight, that would have doubled the size of the force we had to deal with inside the compound. But, you know, our plan was to go there; we knew there'd be a fight. They'd already demonstrated about four or five nights before in the CRE that they were willing to resist.
But we felt that we had overwhelming fire power on the ground, right from the start, and it appeared to them throughout that they only had two choices: that's either to surrender or die. They would come out O.K. That's the choices we gave them.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess the next one, sequentially, would be Gamboa, proper?
LTC MOORE: When we talk about sequentially, maybe the next one to talk about ... realize that all seven of the targets went at 1 o'clock.
DR. WRIGHT: At H.
LTC MOORE: At H-Hour. And that was one thing that we really changed with our plan, because the Marines who had the plan before us, and I guess other infantry battalions, had depended exclusively on air assaults to deliver troops to the target. What we discovered was that if we used the two LCMs and the trucks ... you know, despite the risk of traveling in that mode ... that we could put the entire battalion task force on the ground at H-Hour. So we had no return trips, or no reinforcements to bring in; everyone was on the ground right from the start.
The Gamboa air assault ... during the CRE, we looked at two different LZs [landing zones]. One was to the northeast of the city.
DR. WRIGHT: That's the soccer field area?
LTC MOORE: No, the soccer field area is McGrath Field, which is right in the center of the city. And ... but we looked at the old golf course being a primary LZ. Well, the reports that the P.D.F. were alerted and that they'd be ready for us when we came in, caused us to change the LZs both in Gamboa and down at Cerro Tigre. What we wanted to do in the case of Gamboa was hit closer to the targets with all our force. So they had ... the assault there had two UH ... had one UH-1 and 2 CH-47s.
DR. WRIGHT: CH-47s--the Charlie models, the older Charlie models.
LTC MOORE: And the first UH-1 on the ground carried eleven soldiers that were heavy in automatic weapons. Their responsibility being to secure, initially, the LZ and return any fire that was directed onto the LZ. The CH-47s had a ACL [authorized load] of fifty each. I think we may have even had a few more.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, I've had it described as a tad more than that.
LTC MOORE: Well, they all came into McGrath Field; one platoon going straight away towards the F.U.F.E.M. [Escuela de Formacion Feminina 'Rufina Alfaro'] which is the P.D.F. female training facility. Another platoon came straight towards the Canal, took down the police headquarters, and then secured the bridge over the Chagres River between Gamboa and Renacer Prison. Then the third platoon went towards the ... towards the Forest Police Barracks Headquarters and ... .
That Forest police building was really a tight target and we used it more to demonstrate that even light infantry can do some sort of surgical operation, because they had a major building-clearing operation that went there. They took fire--I think we had two wounded in that action there--and that building that they were working on was surrounded by American families, all sides. I know we had one machine gunner, at least that had to make the choice between shooting fleeing P.D.F. members and not firing towards American buildings, and he held fire. So in the end, we cleared the building, which was our purpose for being there and really I don't think we had a single bullet hole in the surrounding quarters, around the area.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, they had ... the platoon that went up that direction is the ones that ran into the cliff face that was unanticipated?
LTC MOORE: That's correct. Maybe if we had looked more closely at the 1:50,000 map we might have seen it. But all our ... when we did the CRE, they took a different route and did not see a major hill. It was right next to the LZ, so if we had known better, we'd have probably been there a lot faster.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of that platoon that goes that direction, they've got the difficulty of the target being surrounded by Americans. The platoon that will go down to secure the bridge is going to have to make your contact with the elements that come pushing up from Charlie Company, coming up from securing the prison end of the bridge.
LTC MOORE: That's right.
DR. WRIGHT: So that's a tricky one and then the other platoon going up to the F.U.F.E.M. now has the possibility of having to engage in a fire fight with female personnel. So this is a tough set of objectives for that company.
LTC MOORE: Well, you know, people really smile when you go after a female facility, but they're heavily armed, they're highly trained military people. If they decide to stand and fight, then you have to treat them seriously. That did cause complications and also we had a -- in this target here -- my second LCM went into the dredging area, which was directly opposite the F.U.F.E.M. building also. So we had to be careful about where we were shooting, otherwise we'd be firing at our own mortars.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, the case of those three targets, unlike El Renacer where you knew you were going to be engaged in a heavy fire fight, in this one, was there the thought of trying to seal and talk out the people that were in there?
LTC MOORE: The tactic in all of our targets was that we would ... we would talk once we had established in everyone's mind that we were clearly dominant in the situation. And down at Cerro Tigre that involved a run by the supporting Cobra with rockets. It required ... what it required here in Gamboa was that we would absolutely control the area and then we'd start talking to people about, you know, they could come out or surrender.
Now this was particularly true that we were not going to take any chances of anyone being able to negotiate with us: a couple of forest rangers running into the American quarters and grabbing hostages or guards at Renacer Prison running inside the prison compound and holding prisoners for hostage. We were going to ensure that they did not have grounds to negotiate. And then once we did, we would offer them the opportunity to surrender, if they so choose.
DR. WRIGHT: This target goes down fairly smoothly?
LTC MOORE: It pretty much did. Most of the people ... most of the P.D.F. forces in that area decide to head for the hills.
DR. WRIGHT: There's only just light sniper fire?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: What about the final approach the helicopters make ... coming under some ground fire?
LTC MOORE: I think the ground fire they took was probably at Renacer Prison. They probably ... if they reported ground fire, I think it was from ...
DR. WRIGHT: Well, they reported rounds going through the aircraft.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, I think that's probably out at Renacer Prison. There were a lot of rounds going around there. [LAUGHTER] But really that should not have happened. A low level approach, if you remember that hill ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... should have screened them.
LTC MOORE: ... should have screened them.
DR. WRIGHT: They speculated that there was an automatic weapon up on one of the hilltops, because some of the people indicated that there was a gunship with them that rolled over and made a strafing run on that. They thought it was maybe 7.62[mm].
LTC MOORE: Yeah, there was ...
DR. WRIGHT: And it's awfully hard from inside a CH-47 to know what's going on outside. That was the impression.
LTC MOORE: Well, we may be mixing stories here. Cerro Tigre ... they did take fire on the air assault. And there was a Cobra there that fired rockets that suppressed that gunfire. The ... I had not really heard that Gamboa took fire.
DR. WRIGHT: I've heard that from ... well, some of your people in Alpha Company, and also from one of the CH-47 pilots, that he thought--he didn't report that he took it--but he thought there was fire out there and he was unsure in his mind whether it was from something there or whether he was getting 'overs' from El Renacer.
LTC MOORE: Well, there was another guard, though. Remember when I talked about the scouts going into a block area on the back side?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes.
LTC MOORE: Every time we'd been there before, there had been an armed guard at that dock area, and he very well may have fired, and then the first time he saw somebody coming after him, he probably bugged out.
DR. WRIGHT: He just cut and ran. So this one, of your assaults, this one goes down fairly quickly?
LTC MOORE: I think they called their objective secure at 4:00 o'clock in the morning.
DR. WRIGHT: So at that point now, you've got the critical junction of where the Chagres flows into the Canal now under battalion control.
LTC MOORE: Yes. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You've been able to hear that the Delta Company convoy has arrived and secured Madden Dam?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So upstream end of the Chagres River now is fairly secure?
LTC MOORE: The Dam.
DR. WRIGHT: The Dam itself is taken down with no damage, no attempt at sabotage?
LTC MOORE: No, none that we could find and we had a platoon of engineers that were there specifically to look at the Dam to see how it was. And one of the ... [CPT] John Campbell will tell you that one of the tightest things he did was going down and approaching the guard who was at the gate to the dam. We'd been up there to see that guy before, but we didn't know what his loyalties would be. So John--with a certain amount of over-watching firepower [LAUGHTER]--had to go down there and ask the man, you know, which side he was on. We figured we had to get through the gate to get into the dam control facility.
DR. WRIGHT: As it turned out, he opened the door for them?
LTC MOORE: Yes, he did. Yes, good choice.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess then that leaves us Cerro Tigre?
LTC MOORE: Cerro Tigre. They went in with two UH-1s, initially to secure their LZ. When we first looked at the mission, we had picked two LZs that were right in the center of the compound, directly opposite the guard forces' quarters--yeah, this is it right here. And that was up right here where the guard force was.
DR. WRIGHT: Sort of in that open area, I guess, just slightly northwest of the--or to the northwest corner of the guard force headquarters?
LTC MOORE: Yes. Yes, and ... . But when we got the report that the P.D.F. was alerted and they were probably waiting for us there--still thinking that there is probably an equivalent of an infantry company guarding the logistics depot--we made the decision to go ... to make our LZ the golf course directly south of Cerro Tigre. That was the same LZ that we extracted from, on the CREs, so the pilots were familiar with that also.
When they made their approach in, the two UH-1s, they started taking fire from prepared positions north of the golf course. And when the Marines had done CRE, they had gone in there and the P.D.F. had reacted. They'd come out and emplaced positions directly opposite the golf course. But we still thought that if we went in to the golf course, and we had the Cobra there right on station to make a gun run, that we could do it and come off pretty well.
And that's just about what happened. The first UH-1s in there took fire going in, but a run by the Cobra gunship ...
DR. WRIGHT: With the 2.75" rockets?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, silenced that support and we could get on with the clearing operation.
DR. WRIGHT: You deployed then ... additional people come in on Chinooks?
LTC MOORE: Two more Chinooks came in there.
DR. WRIGHT: What's the time gap between the Uh-1s and the Chinooks?
LTC MOORE: Well, on each LZ it was supposed to only be about ... I think about between ten and thirty seconds. I mean, right on their tails we'd have people that could return fire who were on the force on the ground in a hurry. And that worked for the first two UH-1s and the first Chinook.
Back at Fort Sherman, when we had all cranked up and were getting ready to take off, just before lift-off, the second Chinook broke and so the entire force had to go to the 'bump' [spare or backup] Chinook, so it was late in taking off and it also got lost en route. So it had to wander around a while before it found out where it was supposed to go, so I think it came in five or ten minutes after the first people were on the ground.
DR. WRIGHT: Company commander at that point sweating bullets that about half his fire power hasn't shown?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, yeah, he thinks he's really in the trick right there. He had a really good plan, also. He took the entire company through a single breach point, which they had prepared to put through the fence that surrounded the installation.
DR. WRIGHT: Again, a high chain link type fence?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. What they found though was there was a gate there that was left open so they just entered the gate and started three platoon operations going away from each other and clearing the buildings that were there at the logistics installation.
DR. WRIGHT: One platoon swinging sort of northwest into the warehouse/mess hall area, one heading up towards the barracks, and one coming in to deal with the headquarters complex?
LTC MOORE: Yes. Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You're taking ground fire. What kind of ground fire are they reporting to you?
LTC MOORE: It was all small arms and pretty much all went away fairly quickly. The ... I don't think the P.D.F., in my experience up there, was willing to fight you if it were small arms. The first time a big boom went off, like an AT-4 produced ...
DR. WRIGHT: They had second thoughts?
LTC MOORE: They really did. And that was generally the signal that they were going to give up or run.
DR. WRIGHT: In the case of Cerro Tigre, that complex with the exception of the golf course--if my memory serves correctly--about three-quarters of the perimeter of that complex is overlooked by high ground, heavily-forested high ground. Is that a concern of yours that if there is a company size force in there, and they decide not to stand and fight but to fade into the brush, you've now got a full company wandering around out there and you have nowhere near the manpower, even with a full battalion, to chase ...
[END OF SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: Well, anyway. Resuming on Side Two, sir. So you've got a situation there where that's really a position that's in a bowl, and you've got the P.D.F. force that starts melting away as soon as the gunship makes its run?
LTC MOORE: Pretty much so. They had a few engagements while they were in there clearing the warehouses, and clearing the guard barracks; and then later on, when the light came up, there is an ordnance school [Escuela de Explosivos, Demolicion y Sabotaje, or E.E.D.S.] that is at the north end of Cerro Tigre, which was also supposed to be manned by the school cadre and the students that are in session at the time. And they went up there, and I don't know if they took fire, but they did see someone depart. I think they shot at him, but what they ran into is a set of, a series of, booby traps that had been rigged there, probably by ordnance school students or something. So ...
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have engineers with them to start dealing with that?
LTC MOORE: We did not have engineers, and once they ran into booby traps and they started ... they made sure the area was clear of personnel, and once that happened, they kind of shut the whole place down. Said O.K., we will maintain the guard, and maintain a barricade here at the gate, and then we'll bring engineers in to take care of the booby traps.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you get access to that kind of an asset, sir?
LTC MOORE: Probably ... I think we had it within two or three days afterwards.
DR. WRIGHT: Coming out of your own slice, or did you get them on call from Fort Clayton or someplace?
LTC MOORE: I think they were from units in Panama and we just put the request through to the 7th Infantry Division. One thing up there, though, we did have ... you know. Once you, I guess, hear the first explosion and know that it's ... since there are booby traps in there, it really showed some bravery on the part of the units to know that, well, booby traps or not, there's still an area that has to be cleared. So, they continued the operation, pretty much what you described, hunting them in Viet Nam. Had to be real careful where you were walking, after that time.
DR. WRIGHT: By the end of that first afternoon, now, say 1400-1500 on the 20th, you've had a chance to catch a little sleep, or are you still going on straight-up?
LTC MOORE: Well, I'm still going straight-up. I had flown my pilots into about their third extension.
DR. WRIGHT: Their third day?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. They had ... they were really ... in fact, the main pilot nodded out on the way back to Sherman. I went back there to report. So I landed at each target as soon as I could, to talk directly to the company commander and get his report. And then, probably about midmorning, I returned to Sherman to report to the brigade commander to make sure he understood exactly what I had already told him over the radio.
And then I had the pilot bring me back down to Gamboa so I could be there. I had a vehicle at Gamboa so I could operate in Gamboa and Renacer. I still couldn't get to Cerro Tigre or Madden Dam because those roads were ... had not been cleared. Then I sent him back to get whatever sleep he needed, told him as soon as he woke up, that I expected him back on the ground. I tell you, that ... the pilot's name was Nick, and I can't remember his last name. His unit put him in for an air medal for valor just for the stuff he was doing flying me around.
We were ... two little anecdotes I'll tell you. One was during the CRE at Renacer Prison. You know we ran the Renacer Prison and Gamboa CREs the same night because we had both units on the ground and just used them as much as we could. And we were watching the LCM land and the company had gotten out of the LCM, and was up on the ground. I got the report that they were face to face with the guard force, everybody had locked and loaded their weapons and my company commander was eye to eye with this lieutenant colonel.
And we were ... during this whole thing, we were sitting over the Canal at a hover with our lights out trying to see what we could through our NVGs [night vision goggles]. What we didn't see was a tanker coming down the Canal. We didn't know he was there until the copilot happened to look out his building--and I won't repeat what he said right here--you know, "Jesus Christ, what's that?" We were already in the rigging of that tanker, and he didn't see us because we had our lights out. So we almost got run down by a darn ocean tanker. [LAUGHTER]
DR. WRIGHT: By Exxon.
LTC MOORE: Out there in the middle of the Canal.
And the other thing happened at about a D plus four or five, and this I think needs to be a special op[erations]-conventional force lessons-learned. When "***" was in-country, they were looking for Noriega. My unit up on Madden Dam had reported several times that in the city of Buenos Aires, which was just south of Madden Dam, several different reports they got from people that indicated that Noriega may be holed up there. They even had a description of the house: a white wagon wheel out in the front yard. On this particular day, I went out to visit my company commander, so I was sitting there on a levy, just in front of the Dam, and the company commander had driven down, he and his First Sergeant and two of the Panama Canal Zone ...
DR. WRIGHT: Workers?
LTC MOORE: ... trucks, workers trucks. And we had ... still had infantry at both ends of the Dam with .50-cals. and really loaded for bear. Well, I finished my conversation with John, got back in my helicopter, and I saw an AC-130 overhead to the south. I was looking at the AC-130, and then I saw another command and control [UH-60] Blackhawk come up. So, I told my pilot, I said, "Look. It looks like there's a special op about to occur south of here, let's go take a look and see what it looks like."
So we took off and started south. About that time four more Blackhawks came on station. And we continued south for about a half mile and all of a sudden the four Blackhawks cut across our front. And so we turned, at that time I guess we were going almost due east, and the four Blackhawks cut across our front again. And I could tell, because I've worked with some of these people before, that they were Task Force 160 Blackhawks, the way they were painted and everything.
I told the pilot, I said, "Look, it appears to me that they don't want us in the air for this. Let's head on back to Fort Sherman." So now we're going northwest back towards Sherman, and the Blackhawks cut across us again. I told my pilot, I said, "Look, it looks like they don't even want us in the air, so let's go back to the Dam and land."
Well, what I didn't know was, that they had thought ... they had heard a previous report that Noriega was trying to get out of the country by ship or helicopter, so they thought that this was Noriega leaving Madden Dam, escaping from Buenos Aires and traveling across Gatun Lake--or whatever lake it was up there--and they had even requested permission ...
DR. WRIGHT: To open fire?
LTC MOORE: ... to open fire with the mini-guns they have aboard those Blackhawks. So I went back there and we landed back at the Dam and I was in the back seat talking to the pilot on the intercom. I said, "O.K., I've got three Blackhawks in sight. Do you see the other one?" So we are looking every side, trying to find this fourth Blackhawk. All of a sudden it's like Hurricane Hugo hit, and this Blackhawk landed almost on top of us, directly behind the [OH]-58. The next thing I know there's *** shooters on both side of me with their weapons at the ready, aimed at me. So I held up my hands to show them I didn't have a weapon. Then I pointed to my [1st] Cav[alry Division combat] patch on my right sleeve to show them I was U.S.
Well, John Campbell, my company commander who's about fifty yards in front of the helicopter, all he sees is these guys come out of the Blackhawk in the black ninja outfits. And all my troops have been briefed that the only people who wear ninja outfits are that special unit [U.E.S.A.T.] for Noriega. So here I am with my hands up, the company commander down on the levy puts his hands in the air, and my troops up on the Dam, all they see is people with ninja outfits and their battalion commander and company commander with their hands in the air. So they open fire.
And I ... because of the helicopter noise, I didn't know they were firing until a round went through the cockpit of my helicopter, and went through the front, ricocheted off the instrument panel, and then cracked right past the side of my head. When I heard the round crack through my earphones, I said, well, shoot, you know, we got to stop this. So I threw the earphones off and jumped out of the helicopter, and ran up waving my hands to get everybody to cease fire.
That's probably the closest I came to dying the whole time I was there, is in the cross fire between *** and Delta Company, out there on Madden Dam. [LAUGHTER]
DR. WRIGHT: Which day was this, sir, do you remember?
LTC MOORE: This was ... it had to be at about D plus six or seven. I can't remember which day it was.
DR. WRIGHT: It couldn't have been eight because Noriega goes--well, Noriega goes into the embassy -- takes refuge on the 24th.
LTC MOORE: Was it that early?
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, it was that early.
LTC MOORE: Seems like it was later on.
DR. WRIGHT: Because I remember I was buying my wife's Christmas present when I heard the news announced on a radio in the shopping mall.
LTC MOORE: It just seems to me like we were on Madden Dam forever. Yeah, maybe you're right, it's D plus three. I knew a couple of guys that were there and they said they had tried to find out if there were any Americans on Madden Dam. I said well, "hell, you know, we have been here since D-day. You needed to ask somebody else."
DR. WRIGHT: When do you get the word on the fate of your three detached platoons?
LTC MOORE: Well, that's an interesting proposition. Almost from daylight on D-Day, I started trying to figure out how I'm going to get these people back under my control. On D-Day the 20th, I was alerted to send a company to Colon to participate in the assault upon Colon. So I took B Company out of Cerro Tigre and moved ...
DR. WRIGHT: A platoon of Alpha down to relieve them?
LTC MOORE: That's right, down there to secure Cerro Tigre. They went up there ...
DR. WRIGHT: By the way, the platoon from Alpha said that the word they got from Bravo, as Bravo loaded onto the helicopters, was "Oh, and by the way, there are 200 Panamanians that are going to be coming down out of the hills at night." [LAUGHTER]
LTC MOORE: A good word of warning. So B Company went up to Colon and participated in the assault and clearing of Colon, the assault there by B Company on the D.E.N.I. headquarters. Then the next day after that, I believe, I was alerted to bring another company, plus the battalion headquarters, into Colon because the brigade commander had decided that for the clearing and security operations he wanted to use two battalions inside the city of Colon.
DR. WRIGHT: With, I guess, the main road in as your boundary?
LTC MOORE: That's right, that's right. We had the west side and the 4th of the 17th had the east side. So we began the security operation in Colon with the Battalion Headquarters, Alpha and Bravo; and Charlie Company and Delta Company were ended up securing the entire rest of the AO. And so we weren't too mobile. We put our fixed sites, installations ... our guards up there and just prepared to hold those installations while we were up clearing Colon. That lasted about twenty-four or thirty-six hours, and I immediately started pressing the brigade headquarters to get us out of Colon, to turn that entire operation over to the 4th of the 17th, so we could continue our operations in our AO.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of how the 4th of the 17th was organized versus how you were organized--different TOEs--you have more weapons capability, they have more bodies?
LTC MOORE: I'm not really sure, except that their anti-tank capability is much, much less than ours. Where we have twenty systems, I think they have, maybe, four in their battalion. The infantry strength, I think, is about the same.
DR. WRIGHT: Roughly about the same?
LTC MOORE: About the same.
DR. WRIGHT: Any doctrinal problems when you go into the MOUT operation area, or both of you just use classic MOUT techniques?
LTC MOORE: Pretty much so. I think they were more prone to use frags in their clearing operations. Where we would probably use a frag to gain entrance to the building, but once we got inside, unless we really suspected that there was a major enemy force inside a room, we'd just continue to clear with small arms.
DR. WRIGHT: Is this essentially battalion normal practice, or is this the lesson that you learned down there--as other units do--about the problems of in light construction interior walls like those buildings are, throwing grenades tends to be counter-productive because you get more of yourselves than you get of anybody else.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, we knew that from the start, as far as the construction of the buildings. What we didn't know from the start, was what kind of resistance we'd get to our building clearing operation. We never encountered anywhere in our operation a major fight for control of a structure. So we very soon started spreading the word down to start pulling back. I think we even took the grenades away from the soldiers at about D plus three, took all the LAWs and AT-4s then. It became obvious very quickly that you didn't need big weapons to win this particular fight.
DR. WRIGHT: Up in Colon itself, what is the threat level that you run into up there? Is it random acts of violence by dignity battalion people? Is it sniping? Is it just uncontrolability?
LTC MOORE: I think the 3d Brigade commander wanted to enter Colon the first night we were there, the first night the B Company arrived. I went up there with my company, and I stood there with the brigade commander for a while, and there was a lot of firing within the city. A helicopter was shot down right across the city. There were special operation snipers that were finding a great number of targets in there. But I think more than anything else, it was criminals--Colon's a terrible, terrible city.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, it's got a reputation for a long time.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, and I think whoever had weapons there was not pitting themselves against US forces, because we had cordoned the city, there was no US forces in the city. And what they were doing was just taking these acts of revenge.
DR. WRIGHT: Targets of opportunity amongst themselves.
LTC MOORE: Thievery, just criminal acts. I guess kind of for that reason, I think we may have lost some soldiers or something if we'd gone in that first night. So, certainly can't second-guess that decision not to go in.
DR. WRIGHT: Wait until daylight so you can move in light?
LTC MOORE: Well, the assault was at night, but it was the second night. And they did a pamphlet drop. They did a lot of PSYOPS-type things for about twenty-four or thirty-six hours so that when we finally did enter the city, the people of Colon were aware that they needed to stay out of the way, and that our targets were armed personnel. So if you didn't carry a weapon and you stayed out of sight, then you had a pretty good chance of surviving the assault.
DR. WRIGHT: As you're tied down up there with your two companies and you've got a very thinly-spread other two companies down there, where's the XO? Do you leave him down with the other two companies? Or do you have him with you? Or is he off still at Espinar?
LTC MOORE: He left Espinar, I think, on about D plus two or three. He went to Gamboa. And he principally ... We were, like, bouncing apart from each other. And the S-3 is involved in that also. Hardly ever had two field grades in the same place. Either had the XO at Sherman-Espinar, and the S-3 on the ground at Gamboa, and I was in command and control of aircraft. We just tried to keep those three people spread as much as possible. And each one of them with a good set of radios so they could talk to each other.
DR. WRIGHT: Was this an anticipated thing on your part, as you looked at the initial planning, that you were going to be spread out so far that you couldn't afford the luxury of a classic TOC [tactical operations center] operation?
LTC MOORE: Not really. It's the way I have chosen to operate the battalion. Even on [Operation] OCEAN VENTURE we just went on two weeks ago. I have three field grades put on three different spots in the battlefield. I try to ... I try to approximate a CP [command post] with each--an assault CP. They each have an intelligence person that works with them. They each have fire support operators with them, communications. And we get fire support, intelligence and comms in three different locations and we have a lot of ...
DR. WRIGHT: Redundancy?
LTC MOORE: ... redundancy that you don't have otherwise. And that's what we were doing here also.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you tell your people that it's O.K. to come out of face paint and start that process of transitioning over to stability operations?
LTC MOORE: Well, that kind of ties into rules of engagement, also. And the rules of engagement and this ... you know, your level of combat varied from day to day and from location to location. I told the people in Gamboa, probably by D plus two, to go out of face paint, to go to highly visible operations so people could see them--you know, a lot of psychological operations--and become friends with the populace, and that really paid off. One of the people would come to us and tell us bits of intel and things like that.
Colon was still a combat zone. All the way up until the time I pulled Alpha Company and the Battalion Headquarters, they were still in combat gear, loaded for bear. Ready to fire when they had to.
Madden Dam, and the traffic control point out there just north of Madden Dam at the highway intersection, that was so isolated that we really didn't want to show any sign of weakness out there at all. So they stayed in face paint the whole time that they were on the traffic control point.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you feel they were under observation? Even when all appeared quiet, did you think somebody was watching them out there? Given that of all the sabotage targets in the country, that's second most significant after Howard itself?
LTC MOORE: Absolutely. I think there were people coming through the traffic control point all the time, that, if there had been an organized force that was targeted against the Dam, they could have gotten all the information they needed about the force there.
Now one thing that I had the people do, though, is that ... you have to protect your force, and what I had each of the different companies establish, was a secure area that the troops could go to when they are kind of off-duty. In Colon there is the Washington Hotel. At the far end, we really had a good wall there and a good guard force to protect the force there.
Down in Gamboa we had the schoolhouses there, which we put a wire perimeter around, and the guard force there. And Madden Dam is the same way. Once we had established the traffic control points north and south, and made sure that no vehicles could approach the Dam, then we set up a secure area at Madden Dam.
DR. WRIGHT: Was that over that sort of that scenic over-watch sight that we used as an LZ?
LTC MOORE: That's right. That's right. That place there. A soldier cannot maintain 100-percent alert ready for combat all the time. So if you give them a place where they can go to relax during their off-duty time, and then when it's time for them to go on patrol or go on guard, then their squad leader gets them up there, checks their gear out, slaps them around to make sure that they're awake and ready to go on guard, then you've got a better protective force that way.
DR. WRIGHT: You get into the stability operation now, you have to start going out and being visible in some of the lesser communities?
LTC MOORE: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Buena Vista, places like that?
LTC MOORE: Sabanita and, let me see, the third one here was Chilibre. We talked a little while ago about my attempts to get the force back together, get my battalion back under my control. I was thwarted for a long time with getting B Company out of Colon. Because the 4th of the 17th commander, probably rightfully, felt that the city was too large and too big a mess for him to lose a line company.
They got Alpha back right away. I went by and visited the Charlie Company platoon at Cristobal High School, saw that they were not being used as infantry, they were guarding another company's gear, which really made me angry, but we had the grenade incident out on Madden Dam and lost seven soldiers wounded in the grenade explosion there. And I used that as the argument ...
DR. WRIGHT: To get your platoon back?
LTC MOORE: To get the platoon out of Charlie Company back down on the Dam. Then, once they were back down on the Dam, I started pushing to get the Delta Company platoons off their MP duty at the ...
DR. WRIGHT: At the hospital?
LTC MOORE: At Coco-Solo Hospital. In order to get them off, I moved my composite platoon down to the roadblock and that freed up Delta Company. And then finally a day ... twenty-four hours after that, the MPs took over the roadblock there and my composite platoon was released.
So, finally, based on the argument of the wounded that were evacuated from Madden Dam, and also telling them that eventually the action in Panama City is going to die down, eventually the city of Colon is going to be secure, and they'll figure out that that leaves the entire rest of ...
DR. WRIGHT: Entire forty middle kilometers.
LTC MOORE: Yeah, the entire rest of the country that nobody has done anything about. And I wanted to get a jump on that; to get my patrols out and my security operations throughout my battalion AO, you know, which was thirty times larger than the division's AO at Panama City. To start those security operations so when somebody finally decided, hey, we got to do something else here, we had already done it.
The method we used there was starting in Gamboa and working north from there, up the main route. The first city we hit was Chilibre, which was right here. We had gotten ... received reports, both at Madden Dam and down in Gamboa, that there is significant lawlessness in Chilibre. The dignity battalion members who still had arms were raiding places and looting. And the method we took in going in there was to get our scout platoon. We put them in outside the city at about one or two o'clock in the morning on the night before we were going to clear the city. And we ... so they had about twenty-four to twenty-eight hours on the ground in and about the city of Chilibre, reporting to us about what they had seen, about what the normal activities were, identifying people or places for weapons caches, or people who had weapons.
Interestingly enough, I think it was two o'clock in the morning, I was with the truck ... the convoy that we took the scouts out there [with] was my command and control vehicle and I guess one deuce and a half. And just when we stopped, somebody cut loose with a magazine of AK-47 fire, just on the hill right above our heads. And my S-3 accused me of setting it up, said that I had done that just to add excitement to the night. I didn't have a thing to do with it, but it sure made a point. Fortunately it wasn't an ambush, it was just somebody celebrating Christmas, I think is what he was doing. So we put the scouts in and they stayed twenty-eight hours; told us everything that was happening. Then, at four o'clock in the morning, we had moved into the city at drop off points, and dropped Charlie Company off down there.
DR. WRIGHT: Ground transport or air transport?
LTC MOORE: Ground transport. What we wanted to do was to ... so that when people awoke in Chilibre, and walked out, the first thing they saw was US paratroopers in clean faces.
DR. WRIGHT: Beret or Kevlar helmet]?
LTC MOORE: Kevlar. Kevlar down there. They saw US paratroopers throughout their city. We did the same thing in Sabanita and Buena Vista: the scouts in twenty-four hours early to give us the setup, the line company in before dawn the next morning. And then the company would stay for twenty-four hours, a complete cycle. They would distribute food, they would take ... they had the cash for arms.
DR. WRIGHT: Money for muskets, yeah.
LTC MOORE: Money for muskets ... the operation they ran. And really gave the people a chance to come to us, to tell us, O.K., here are where the problems are, these are the bad guys, these are where weapons are being kept. And just to settle the place.
DR. WRIGHT: As you go through that, there's a couple of questions that sort of suggest themselves to me. One, had you cross-leveled your Spanish speakers before you went down there?
LTC MOORE: Not before we went, but we did run a check and make sure that every platoon-size element had a Spanish speaker.
DR. WRIGHT: So the translation was not a problem?
LTC MOORE: No. No, it wasn't, and there's a lot of people down there that speak English that we could talk to.
DR. WRIGHT: [Do] you get buried alive with HUMINT [human intelligence]? In fact other units have complained they just got buried alive in it, and it became almost impossible to process the stuff, because you were just getting so much. And therefore, susceptibility to: Juan and Pablo haven't gotten along for twenty years, Juan finds the Americans first and immediately thinks Pablo is being one of Noriega's number one guys, so we would go kick his door in.
LTC MOORE: Well, our guys got better at validity checks though. And they'd start asking questions: when did you see the weapon, what did it look like? We probably would not respond on a first report from one individual, but if we got in two or three different people who seemed to be pointing at the same target, we'd probably go run a check on those areas. And some of them really paid off.
DR. WRIGHT: Your S-2 work up the procedures on handling that?
LTC MOORE: He was looking at a larger picture; analyzing what we had taken down in Gamboa and trying to develop a gray or a black list of people to pick up in the battalion AO. When we got several reports from a certain area, then he would change his focus and develop an intel picture, and he was pretty good. Before the company or the scouts were going into the city, he had compiled at least a log, say, O.K., these are the locations, these are the reports we've received so far. So they didn't really go in cold to the different targets.
DR. WRIGHT: I've been told that, I guess at Gamboa, you came up with a roster? Or was that something that was furnished to you by higher headquarters?
LTC MOORE: No, that was a ... when we went through the files there at the F.U.F.E.M., and also at Renacer Prison, they had a list of the prisoners there and the guard force, and so we had a pretty extensive ... and in fact it was a computer printout that we could use to check identifications.
When somebody would come and report, I know where Juanita Valdez is, then we could check and yeah, sure enough, Juanita Valdez is there, and we'd go. A lot of times all it took was to say go tell Juanita just to come on in and we'll make sure she gets down to PW [prisoner of war] collection point. And most of these people ...
DR. WRIGHT: Just wanted the assurance that they weren't going to get gunned down when they turned themselves in?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, and we tried to demonstrate through our actions that we were not a hostile force. And they would come in, and there were instances where they had kids they needed to look after, so we'd say okay, wait until Dad gets home. And then they would be back in two days to the area. And a lot of them ... even the camp commander of Renacer Prison was back in position before we vacated the prison.
DR. WRIGHT: This is the same lieutenant colonel that had already gone eyeball-to-eyeball?
LTC MOORE: Yes, same lieutenant colonel. He wasn't there, though, the night we hit. He was on vacation. [LAUGHTER]
DR. WRIGHT: As you start getting this influx of prisoners, then, you use your MP attachment to escort them back down to Empire Range?
LTC MOORE: Well, the MPs were good, especially the ones we brought from the 82d with us. The MPs we got out of Panama were the worst I've ever seen. The 549th MP Company is absolutely the worst unit I've ever seen in the Army. So we had to ... we gave up on them.
But what we generally would do, was either evacuate the prisoners ... . For example, from Madden Dam there'd be resupply convoys or just military convoys passing through the checkpoint and it was really good. You could drop off 'most anybody, say, hey I've got three prisoners here, do you mind delivering them to ... I guess it was Davis up here where they had the compound for Colon. And, then, for the other targets, we brought them into Gamboa.
DR. WRIGHT: And then moved them by LCM?
LTC MOORE: Yeah, moved them by LCM.
DR. WRIGHT: So in that sense, you're back-hauling constantly to get maximum utilization of your limited resources?
LTC MOORE: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: Impressions about ... since you are a Viet Nam veteran, the popular attitude amongst the Panamanians towards our presence maybe vis-a-vis the way the Vietnamese acted?
LTC MOORE: Well, the worst I ever got from the Vietnamese was indifference. They were not, they weren't going to help you. I never saw too many civilians that seemed to be actively involved in opposing what you did. The Panamanians, absolutely to a person that I saw, were glad we were there. Even the looters up there in Colon, when we would stop them, you'd pull your weapon on them, and they'd just smile and laugh and stuff. They knew they were wrong. But heck, you know, everyone else was doing it, why can't I? They'd put the stuff down, they'd plead with you to let them have it, and you just tell them no, and they'd go on about their business.
The companies that we sent into Chilibre, Buena Vista and Sabanita, just got stuffed to the gills with local food and cokes and soft drinks and things like that. But it was such a reward--I think it was even more important to me that the Panamanians appreciated what we were doing, more than the Americans. It was very gratifying that we got support from home, too, on this one. To see how proud and happy they were to have us there, that just made it all worthwhile.
DR. WRIGHT: The deployment--when do you get legitimate, bona fide, hard data as to when you get to get out of country?
LTC MOORE: That became the--very quickly--became the topic there. [LAUGHTER] And to tell you the truth, I almost hate to admit this: I talk about how the tactical urgency of clearing my battalion AO ... well, one of the things also, we had a scheduled redeployment from our original trip down there. I think we went in the 10th of December and I think we were scheduled for redeployment on the 13th of January. Something right around there. I wanted to make sure that there is nothing about this operation that ...
DR. WRIGHT: That would keep you away a day longer?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. They had already ordered those airplanes and were having to land on that day, that we'd be ready to go home. So, I was encouraged by my commanders and staff to make a trip every so often down to division headquarters to find out. Make sure they hadn't forgotten about us, which we were afraid they had, being attached to the 7th ID. And I don't think ... we continued to press like the 13th was our redeployment date. I scheduled my tactical operations to ensure that our clearing had stopped. Our Charlie company had gone 150 miles to the east along the coast in support of some special operations missions. I tried to make sure that those were concluded in time to reform at Sherman on about the 10th, to get all the ammunition turned in. So I tried to make sure that there was no reason to be held down there, always looking at that one date; and finally it just came through.
I think the division also helped us a heck of a lot. They were the ones that ordered the airplanes for us and made it happen. And they were in ... they saw the justice, since we'd been down there since the 10th, of getting us the first planes out.
DR. WRIGHT: First birds home. Who do you hand off to, the AO?
LTC MOORE: The most of the areas that were in our AO were taken over by military police. The former D.E.N.I., or police stations, that were in Buena Vista, Chilibre, and Sabanita, were manned by joint force of American MPs and ...
DR. WRIGHT: 16th [Military Police] Brigade guys with the reconstituted Panamanians?
LTC MOORE: Yes, yes that's correct. There were some people that took over Renacer Prison from us, from either ... they were real interested in getting Renacer rehabilitated because they had people they wanted to put in there. As soon as the justice system was rectified, they wanted a prison to put them in, so they got real busy on that right away and we were cleared out of there.
Gamboa just stayed real quiet throughout. It's kind of a hard place to get to anyway. We eventually handed that over to a company, I think from the 4th of the 17th ... 4th of the 17th finally picked up both Cerro Tigre and Gamboa from us so we could be released and go to Sherman.
DR. WRIGHT: Spend what, about a day, two days at Sherman, taking care of turn-in and clearing?
LTC MOORE: That's about it. I think it may have been three days between arrival and departure.
DR. WRIGHT: How do you get from Sherman to what, Howard? Did you fly out of Howard?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. School bus.
DR. WRIGHT: The same convoy procedure that got you there when you came down? The yellow school buses, Navy school buses?
LTC MOORE: Yes, yellow school buses. See, yeah, same thing.
DR. WRIGHT: Fly back in here, get home--was it--the ninth?
LTC MOORE: The 9th does sound familiar. I am saying the 13th. Came in on, I think, six C-141s and one C-5 brought us back. Really touch and go. The C-5 pilot told me that they had fuel for one pass, they didn't break out until the absolute minimums, and somebody was really looking after us because it was raining, very low overcast and we got everybody on the ground though, and had our welcome-back ceremony.
DR. WRIGHT: GEN [Edwin] Burba?
LTC MOORE: [MG William] Roosma was the host there. I think you're right, it might have been Burba for the VIPs.
DR. WRIGHT: And then twenty-four hours later everybody's got block leave?
LTC MOORE: That's about it, and packed it up.
DR. WRIGHT: How long did it take you to reconstitute and be ready to go for the next cycle?
LTC MOORE: I'll tell you that it didn't take much. When the other two battalions came back, they went through an immediate maintenance inspection. But we came off block leave. And I can't remember what cycle we entered right when we came off.
But I have been really pleased with the companies and the troops because I thought we would have a JUST CAUSE mentality that lasted for a long time about troops saying that you know, I've seen it all now, and that you can't ...
DR. WRIGHT: Can't teach me anything.
LTC MOORE: Can't teach me anything. But we came back into a training cycle and we got right back up in the field. So I had no trouble convincing them there's still things to learn, they're still training hard. The battalion, as far as I can tell, is still improving.
DR. WRIGHT: Some personnel and morale type issues. Family support group--how did it work?
LTC MOORE: It was just absolutely super. And I heard that while I was in Panama. The reports coming back from here, was that everyone was being taken care of. The great thing was that I did not have a single soldier family-related problem for the entire time; through JWC, through JUST CAUSE, until [re]deployment. That's really a combat multiplier, that the soldiers, while they are not hearing anything from home that distracts them, but they actually know for a fact that the FSG is here to support them. And we spent a lot of time--particularly my wife and the steering committee for the FSG--spent a lot of effort convincing soldiers that it's an active group and can do the job that they advertise.
DR. WRIGHT: Who is your POC in the party you left back here?
LTC MOORE: Left the HHC XO, LT McCormick, who is in charge initially. My signal officer came back from CAS3 and so then the two of them picked up and shipped down, and it was turned over to a new captain.
DR. WRIGHT: Awards and decorations issue.
LTC MOORE: I think we kind of slighted ourselves in awards and decorations. That's had a negative impact on the morale of the troops, but only by comparison. If we operated in a vacuum here in the division, and no one knew anything different, then it wouldn't matter. But the story we heard was that a battalion that had gone to REFORGER [Return of Forces to Germany annual exercise] from the 10th Mountain [Division] got 25 or 50 ARCOMs [Army Commendation Medals], just for going to REFORGER, and my battalion got maybe 25 or 30 awards, total, [for] valor [or] service. All that was everything else, though.
DR. WRIGHT: The CIB [Combat Infantryman's Badge]?
LTC MOORE: The CIB was not a problem.
DR. WRIGHT: And I guess your medics got the EMB [CMB or Combat Medical Badge]?
LTC MOORE: EMB [CMB], that's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: This battalion pretty much understood the rules of 'got to be 11-series [Military Occupational Specialty] in an 11-series slot,' and all that, so that was not a problem?
LTC MOORE: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: What about the popular uproar caused by media not understanding what the ground rules are? Did that produce any reaction here in the battalion?
LTC MOORE: No, not back here at all.
DR. WRIGHT: Just the touchy issue, the gold star.
LTC MOORE: That was a ... that very much excited me. I went up and pled my case before the chief of staff and last I heard, we were successful. My feeling was, and I guess historians need to educate me if I'm wrong here, but that that gold star was ... the AFEM, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, went to those people who participated in a foreign campaign as an invading force. The gold star was to symbolize those who participated in the initial assault. So I even heard that at Normandy Beach, the first wave in wore gold stars, the second ...
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
LTC MOORE: The second wave in, the AFEM without the star, or the Arrowhead device.
DR. WRIGHT: The arrowhead device, yeah. So ... yeah ... the argument ... that is not a dead issue, they are still listening favorable towards or considering favorably ruling that your air mobile assaults and your other assaults qualified the battalion for first wave status, as it were.
LTC MOORE: Yes. And my argument was that, you know, when the staff actually went forward to the CG [commanding general], I understood that we were listed among other units and that were some question about whether we qualified. I later found out that we weren't even on the list, weren't even being considered for it. My feeling was that there were about half a dozen units that were there at H-Hour. The Rangers at Rio Hato, and as it turns out, they landed after we did. They were about 15 minutes late because their aircraft. The Rangers that went into ...
DR. WRIGHT: Tocumen.
LTC MOORE: ... Tocumen. The special ops units that went in around Panama City and other locations. And everyone else went to the battle on the ground, so that doesn't qualify. But we had two beach assaults at Gamboa and Renacer. We had air assaults which qualified at H-Hour as part of the assault force, so I thought the real ... the real meaning of the arrowhead device, that we had fulfilled that.
DR. WRIGHT: Does the battalion have any tension with your sister battalions in the brigade over the jump?
LTC MOORE: Over the jump? No. We had a T-shirt made. And I made this T-shirt to address that issue. And it was a ... the T-shirt is "Task Force 3/504," has a map of Panama and the battalion crest over it, and the question beneath it "Where were you at H-Hour?" That has been ...
DR. WRIGHT: The turn-around thing?
LTC MOORE: Yes. So they say they jumped, we say O.K., you know, I've jumped Sicily [Drop Zone], that's a secure airfield, you jumped Tocumen, that was a secure airfield at the time. We were there an hour and fifteen minutes before the first 82d paratroopers jumped out of the sky.
DR. WRIGHT: Effect of participating in the operation on your junior leaders, officers and NCOs?
LTC MOORE: I think they've grown up a bit by it. I think they have learned that there is no, when it comes to enforcing standards, that there is no half ground. You either enforce standards or you do not. What I tried to show them, and I think they have learned, is that standards are standards. That if you ... whether it's uniform discipline, or cleaning your weapon, or cleaning your room. If you establish a standard, then it becomes attention to detail to make sure the standard is enforced, that everybody complies with it. And I think they really saw that there is a connection.
When you drive around the battlefield and you come upon soldiers that are out of uniform, then you can automatically assume that they are not prepared for combat. I preach this, based on my own Viet Nam experience. I've been in this battalion for eighteen months but it never really clicked. Now, it clicks. 'Jesus, sir, you know you were right all along, it does make a difference.'
DR. WRIGHT: Retention. You think participation has any impact on retention?
LTC MOORE: I have not ... it's hard for me to say. When we first came back, I expected a big flood of re-enlistments, and did not see that. Now the battalion re-enlistment statistics are very good, we're making mission. But I'm not sure that's Panama or just good ...
DR. WRIGHT: Just good feeling about being in the Army?
LTC MOORE: Yeah. I think that's probably more of it than just the deployment. You know soldiers. I heard so many of them say, agree with me again, 'hey, sir, you're right, I'm never going to half-step on training.' But you hear the same thing in Vietnam from a guy that just got shot at on patrol; I'm never going to have a dirty weapon again. And a week later, the guy's weapon is dirty. So, the lasting effect on troops is not very long at all.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else that you could think of that's significant, that I haven't thought to ask you a question about, sir?
LTC MOORE: I think the battalion operation was enormous and complex. I'm not patting myself on the back. What I'm doing is patting all these companies that I put into very bad circumstance. It was an economy of force mission. They knew when they hit the ground that there were no additional forces; that if they could not handle the situation with what they took into the combat and get the ground right from the start, that it was not going to be handled. They'd be the ones who were getting beat through the jungle, not the Panamanians.
But it was not a flawless execution, but it went according to plan. And a plan as complex and diverse as this one was, I think that says a lot for the quality of these young captains and lieutenants and the soldiers we've got here. It also makes a good ... I had one company commander who when they asked him--I think it was the commander at Renacer--they asked him how tough it was. He said that he's had tougher training at Fort Bragg. So that's a good statement there for a good realistic targets.
DR. WRIGHT: To pursue that a little bit, you talk about the little things that go wrong and yet that the company commanders and the platoon leaders and the NCOs had a chance to react to that and to adjust to it. Is that flexibility that is built in within division, in the way we normally conduct business? Or is that more a sense that the policy makers and the planners--at corps, at division, at brigade, at battalion--are able to profit from our experience and not create plans where everything hinges one thing on another? So that if we get off on an OPSKED [operations schedule] somewhere, we don't cripple the entire rest of the operation. We're just getting smarter about making sure that we don't have linkages like that?
LTC MOORE: I think with the plan that the JTF SOUTH came up with--there were so many moving parts on that that there was no way you could have guaranteed success other than to have very imaginative and flexible leaders. We complain in the division a lot about being jerked around so much. We do, I mean I've never served in another division, but I've heard the stories of them. How down in the 24th [Infantry Division] you can actually plan five weeks ahead of time and see it really happen the way you planned it. These poor company commanders here, you know, if they know what they're doing tomorrow and have all the assets set aside for it, they're doing a pretty damn good job.
And they complain that it does establish a mentality that the train's moving too fast to slow down for anybody and that if you're inflexible you won't survive in the division. But if you're inflexible, you won't survive in combat either. So we have administratively almost created an environment that promotes our success in combat.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else, sir?
LTC MOORE: That's about it. There are a heck of a lot of stories out there, and I'm sure you'll get most all of them.
DR. WRIGHT: Appreciate it, sir.
[END OF INTERVIEW]