History Office

XVIII Airborne Corps and Joint Task Force South

SOURCE: 870-5a Organizational History Files. XVIII Airborne Corps. 1989-90. Operation JUST CAUSE. Corps Historian's Notes. Notebook #1. PERMANENT.

Corps Historian's Personal Notes Recorded During the Operation

NOTE: This is all information as reported or Discussed at the Time; Accuracy MUSTbe Verified

Operational Key Events/Outline for Report


A. Background.

  1. PDF rapid shifting of forces after 3 Oct 89 failed coup finally starts stabilizing around Thanksgiving.
  2. Intelligence generally adequate, except that Dignity Battalions underestimated in quantity and quality.
  3. Anticipated being unable to get surprise.
  4. French-made 120mm mortars were key PDF weapons system because have 13.5 kilometer range which exceeds us M-102 105mm howitzer's (11.5 kilometers).

B. Planning conference at XVIII Airborne Corps 6-8 Nov 89.


  1. FRAGO 001: 202000R Dec 89.
  2. Because this was pre-planned the full FORSCOM Deployable Joint Task Force was not employed; six individual personnel were used (1st Battlefield Control Detachment).
  3. LTG Stiner personally wrote and revised the Rules of Engagement.
  4. final package of 51 C-141 aircraft for 82d Airborne Division (20 personnel, 28 heavy drop, 3 CDS) represented increase of three over initial plan.

D. 82d Abn Div OPORD.

  1. Cross-levelling executed months in advance ensured every squad had at least one Spanish-speaker.
  2. Called for maximum use of sniper teams.
  3. DRB-1 had to retain one company team as the JTF SOUTH reserve (it sat on Torrijos-Tocumen airfield during the air assaults).
  4. Plan called for drop of:

E. 7th Inf Div OPORD 2-90.

  1. FRAGO 1A.

F. Initiatives.

  1. Liaison Officers had TACSAT communications on direction of LTG Stiner.
  2. Key role assigned to Psychological Operations result of personal experiences of GEN Thurman, LTG Stiner and MG Cisneros; employed down to company level (teams with 250-watt manpack loudspeakers).
  3. Liaison officers were exchanged well in advance.

G. Concept of Operations.

  1. Joint Task Force PANAMA (MG Cisneros) will conduct handover to Joint Task Force SOUTH (LTG Stiner) by prior planning and prearrangement.
  2. Task Force ATLANTIC (COL Kellogg) will neutralize Fort Espinar, Coco Solo [it is Kellogg's idea to employ Vulcans]; secure Fort Sherman and the Gatun Locks; and use element undergoing training at Jungle Operations Training Center to neutralize Gamboa, Cerro Tigre and secure Madden Dam.
  3. Task Force BAYONET (COL Snell) will neutralize Fort Amador, La Comandancia/Carcel Modelo, and the lesser targets throughout Panama City.
  4. Task Force SEMPER FI will secure Howard AFB and the Bridge of the Americas, and block any movement of PDF reinforcements from the west.
  5. Task Force 82d (MG Johnson) will use 75th Rangers to neutralize 2d Infantry Company at Tocumen and then allow for DRB-1 of 82d to use parachute assault to rapidly build combat power on the ground and prepare for three air assaults to seize Panama Viejo, Tinajitas and Fort Cimarron, neutralizing Battalion 2000, 1st Infantry Company, Cavalry Squadron, and UESAT.
  6. OPLAN called for 82d to conduct link-up and assume OPCON of 1st Battalion (+), 75th Ranger Regiment at H+45.
  7. OPLAN called for air assault [Phase III] lift package to consist of 20 UH-60 Blackhawks, 4 AH-1 Cobras, and some OH-58 Kiowas; sequencing of targets is shifted in response to repositioning of PDF assets.
  8. OPLAN called for Task Forces BAYONET and SEMPER FI to pass to control of 82d Airborne Division to become Task Force PACIFIC as soon as their initial missions are completed [therefore the division had to plan and position to assume this responsibility]. HOWEVER this was never executed.


A. Operation BLACK KNIGHT.

  1. Conducted as a normal EDRE onto Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg.
  2. Carried out by 3d Brigade [DRB-1 at time] but with controllers provided by 1st Brigade [DRB-1 when executed].
  3. Attended by Ranger liaison officers.


A. Execution Order.

  1. 172000R Dec 89 [Sunday] LTG Stiner gives alert order to command group and senior commanders; sets H-Hour as 200100R; and decrees that EDRE will be deception cover.
  2. 82d Airborne Division calls first key personnel 171930R Dec 89. [NOTE: Discrepancy with above.]
  3. BG Scholes and ADVON of twenty depart night of 17 December and are operational 180900R Dec 89 at Howard AFB.
  4. 180730R Dec 89 [Monday] LTG Stiner moves N-Hour up to 0900R from original 1300R.
  5. 181700R Dec 89 C-141s at Pope AFB.
  6. 181030R Dec 89 LTG Stiner orders increased readiness level for 24th Infantry Division [division was never employed in operation].
  7. 181300R Dec 89 LTG Stiner and 26-man element depart Fort Bragg/Pope AFB.
  8. JCS Execution Order received 181825R Dec 89.
  9. FORSCOM Execution Order received 181855R Dec 89.
  10. JTF SOUTH Execution Order 191600Z Dec 89.

B. Infiltrated Forces.

  1. One month early from Fort Bragg wearing 5th Infantry Division patches as deception.
  2. Task Force CHAMPION (BG Joe Kinzer and ADVON--not the full Assault Command Post package division had wanted) depart 181500R Dec 89 to preposition for command and control until MG Johnson on ground; in anticipation of Task Force PACIFIC mission prepositions at Headquarters of 193d Infantry Brigade at Fort Clayton.
  3. Surgical Team departs Pope AFB 191950R Dec 89 to preposition at site at Howard AB.

C. Departure of Air Flow.

  1. Heavy drop C-141s (28 aircraft for heavy drop proper plus 3 for CDS drop).
  2. Ranger air flow.
  3. Personnel aircraft for 82d Airborne Division.
  4. 7th Infantry Division air flow.

D. Airborne Command and Control.

  1. Corps.
  2. Special Operations Command. Two ABCCC in air.

IV. H-HOUR COMBAT ACTIONS (General). [200100R Dec 89 per OPLAN]

A. Compromise of H-Hour.

B. 200001R Dec 89 LTG Stiner advances H-Hour for JSOTF missions only to 0045R.

V. H-HOUR COMBAT ACTIONS (In-Country Forces).


  1. 7th Special Forces vs. Battalion 2000 at Pacora River Bridge.
  2. Task Force BLACK takes TV-2 transmitter off air at 200051R Dec 89.
  3. EC-130 provides jamming support.
  4. Task Force WHITE (SEALs).

B. Task Force BAYONET.

  1. La Comandancia. TF 4-6 vs. Garrison.
  2. Fort Amador. TF 1-508 vs. 5th Company.
  3. Task Force 5-87.
  4. Follow-on missions of Task Force BAYONET.

C. Task Force ATLANTIC [3d Brigade, 7th Inf. Div.].

  1. Task Force 4-17 vs. Naval Infantry Company at Coco Solo. 1 KIA, 17 EPW.
  2. Task Force 4-17 vs. 8th Infantry Company at Fort Espinar. 80 EPW. 1 Vosper patrol boat destroyed.
  3. Task Force 4-17 sealing off Colon.
  4. Task Force 3-504. Not with 82d Airborne Division. Heaviest division casualties. Had deployed 10 Dec 89 to Jungle Operations Training Center on normal rotation.

D. Task Force SEMPER FI. Went off without hitch.

  1. Bridge of the Americas.
  2. Locks.
  3. Arrijan Tank Farm. DNTT Station. 2 KIA, 2 WIA, 13 EPW.
  4. La Chorrera. 10th Military Zone Headquarters.
  5. Vera Cruz.

E. In-Country Aviation Assets.

  1. Task Force HAWK (lift).
  2. Task Force WOLF (3 AH-64 Apaches and 4 OH-58 Kiowas).

F. Military Police.

  1. 92d Military Police Battalion.
  2. 519th Military Police Battalion.

VI. H-HOUR COMBAT ACTIONS (Airborne Assaults).

A. Special Operations Jumps. Task Force RED.

  1. Rio Hato. 75th Rangers (-).
  2. Tocumen. 1st Battalion (+), 75th Rangers.

B. 82d Airborne Division Jump. Airfield Seizure Package.

  1. Landing Zone issue.
  2. Heavy Drop.
  3. Personnel Drop.
  4. OPLAN called for all three air assaults to take place in dark.
  5. Air Assault at Panama Viejo. TF 2-504 [TF ALPHA] vs. Cavalry Squadron (+). 200815R [0653R] Dec 89. Declared secured 201140R Dec 89.
  6. Air Assault at Tinajitas. TF 1-504 [TF BRAVO] vs. 1st Company. 200823R [0705]. Hot LZ. Subsequent sniper fire and sporadic mortar fire through 21 Dec. Declared secured 201433R Dec 89. 1 KIA, 2 WIA.
  7. Air Assault at Fort Cimmaron. TF 4-325 [TF CHARLIE] vs. Battalion 2000. 200818R Dec 89. Cold LZ. Declared secured 210004R Dec 89. 13 KIA. Capture 3 120mm mortars; destroy 10 vehicles.
  8. Ground Convoys. Firefight with Panama Viejo column (2 M-551 Sheridans; 6 M-998 HMMWVs)
  9. Securing Torrijos-Tocumen.
  10. Marriot Hotel. TF 2-504.

C. Ranger Regiment Follow-on Missions.

  1. Task Force BLACK conducts air assault 201820R Dec 89 to disable radio station; land on roof and destroy antenna array; station goes off air at 202132R.
  2. 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment evacuates civilians from Caracul Hotel to Howard AFB.
  3. Paitilla Airport declared secured by Rangers 211400R Dec 89.

D. Other JSOTF Follow-on Missions.

  1. Searches three buildings by AM 21 December 89 resulting in 6 EPW and securing of large document cache.


A. 82d Airborne Division.

  1. Rear detachment departs Pope AFB in three C-141s later on 20 Dec 89.
  2. Additional aviation elements begin moving evening of 20 Dec 89 per original plan.
  3. Company C, 4th Battalion, 325th Infantry went to Panama on 26 Dec 89; were not on Fort Bragg on D-Day.
  4. Because OPLAN did not call for replacements, none are sent to offset casualties.
  5. 82d Airborne Division planning norms habitually provide for a follow-on (executed as recently as Operation GOLDEN PHEASANT), but one was not employed this time because XVIII Airborne Corps controlled all aircraft, forcing the division to compete (unsuccessfully) for priority, thereby leaving division with less "tail" than they expected.
  6. One key supply item was shipped down to 82d: Kevlar flack jackets (two 1,000-jacket shipments).

B. 7th Infantry Division.

  1. DRB-1 (2d Brigade) and Division Headquarters.
  2. DRB-2 (1st Brigade).
  3. Follow-on forces' flow from Fort Ord closed at 250900Z Dec 89.
  4. 82d Abn Div considered [27 December 1989 briefing to CALL team] that 7th Inf Div moved "smarter" because they provided more "tail" in their airflow planning.

C. 16th Military Police Brigade.

  1. HHC closes Howard AFB at 211600Z Dec 89. [211300R]
  2. 503d Military Police Battalion.

D. M-1 Abrams tank platoon, 24th Infantry Division.

  1. 201730R Dec 89 advanced to 6-hour standby.
  2. 22 Dec 89 standby canceled.
  3. Not sent because although it could cross Bridge of Americas, there was no other bridge or culvert in Panama that could hold the weight of an M-1.

E. Logistics Support.

  1. 1st Support Command (1st COSCOM) deployment on 21 Dec 89.
  2. Log Birds start evening 21 Dec 89.
  3. Classes I, VIII, IX.
  4. Class V. Critical items 2.75" rockets; 20mm; 30mm.

F. Signal. Additional forces begin moving from 35th Signal Brigade on 24 Dec 89.


A. TF AVIATION "rescue" of 10 Smithsonian hostages 220730R Dec. Included one child. Extracted from five miles north of El Llano (QA 2419). Had been abandoned by PDF after having been siezed initially.

B. Prisoners of War.

  1. Opening of Empire Range POW Camp.
  2. Rio Hato prisoners backhauled 21 Dec 89 on 6 C-130s that deployed TF 2-27; then moved to Empire Range.

C. TF BAYONET firefight 221618Z Dec 89 lasting 30 minutes near the Balboa Train Station.

D. TF 3-504 at Madden Dam.

  1. 231800Z Dec 89 platoon attacked by estimated 30 DIGBATs feigning surrender; 10 US WIA; 5 DIGBAT KIA [1847Z threw grenade]
  2. 251244Z Dec 89 Company D contact (PA 520184) results in one enemy KIA, one enemy WIA.

E. TF ATLANTIC operations into Colon 22 Dec 89.

  1. Two companies of 3-504th Infantry involved.

F. Rangers (JSOTF) operational area.

  1. Initially given OPCON of a battalion from 7th Infantry Division.
  2. Move out to secure David and other targets, then are relieved in place by 7th Inf Div.

G. Land communications between Howard Air Base and Torrijos-Tocumen Airport are interdicted for first four days; first ground convoy escorted by an M-551 Sheridan takes place only on 25 December.


A. Restoration of activities benchmarks.

  1. Bridge of the Americas opened 221800 Dec 89.
  2. Roads opened 231200Z Dec 89.
  3. Panama Canal opened 210530R Dec 89.
  4. Torrijos-Tocumen turned over by 82d Airborne Division to Air Force 251600Z Dec 89.

B. Command and Control relationships.

  1. 7th Infantry Division assumes command and control of Task Force ATLANTIC 202230R Dec 89.
  2. 242100Z Dec 89 TF SEMPER FI OPCON to 7th Inf Div.
  3. 241100Z Dec 89 1st Bde TF, 7th Inf Div [9th Regt] OPCON to 82d Abn Div.
  4. 251600Z 82d Airborne Division Tactical Operations Center moved from Torrijos-Tocumen to CODEGECE Building at Fort Amador.

C. Movement into Outlying Areas.

  1. TF 2-27 to Rio Hato from Torrijos 21 Dec by intratheater C-130 airlift. 2d Brigade, 7th Infantry Division movement suspended when Torrijos came under fire. Verify if helicopters are later employed to assist C-130s.
  2. 221400Z Dec 89 [220400R] TF 5-21 air assaults to Coclecito without resistance to neutralize paltoon at Training Center; secure 3 EPW.
  3. 211700R Dec 89 TF SEMPER FI conducted raid to ranch in Vista Allegre; secured by 211830R with 3 EPW.
  4. 212220R Marine OP/LP fires on two individuals at PV 479899 resulting in one KIA.
  5. 231100Z TF 3-27 relieves Rangers at Penonome Prison.
  6. 231100Z TF 2-27 (OPCON to TF SEMPER FI) secures La Chorrera (initial estimate 315 EPW; later clarified as 188 EPW, 300 small arms, three V-300).
  7. 232000Z TF SEMPER FI (one LAI company, one infantry company, tactical air support, helicopter gunships) secures Vaca Monte without resistance.
  8. 232000Z Company C, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry secures prison at Santiago (NV 0925) and vicinity.
  9. 241000Z Company A, 3d Battalion, 27th Infantry secures Chitre.
  10. 250900Z Company B, 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry air assaults into Las Tablas; no contact; 220 EPW, 224 weapons secured.
  11. 251500Z 3d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment air assaults into David; no resistance; by 2040Z have secured one UH-1, one ZPU-4, 7,200 rifles.

D. Activities within Panama City environs.

  1. 230800Z the 82d Airborne Division relieves JSOTF elements at Noriega's house at Alto de Golf.
  2. JSOTF, MP and 4-325 elements secure Papal Nunciature (PV 631923) on 24 December.
  3. TF BAYONET secures Finance Ministry Building 211330R Dec 89.
  4. TF BAYONET secures Channel 4 TV station 212100R Dec 89.
  5. DRB-1, 82d Abn Div when moves into City initially leaves 3d Battalion (-), 319th Field Artillery and 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment behind to secure Torrijos-Tocumen Airfield.


A. First 100 personnel of 96th Civil Affairs Battalion arrive in theater 221030Z Dec 89; battalion (-) committed to JTF SOUTH on 23 December 89.

B. Displaced Civilian camp at Balboa High School.

  1. By late 22 Dec has over 5,000 inhabitants.
  2. 24 December relief supply issues start.

C. Reconstitution of Panamanian Security Forces.

  1. Late 23 December begin use of PSF personnel as LNOs.
  2. 25 December 1989 16th Military Police Brigade begins joint patrols with PSF.


A. Fratricide.

1. Preventive measures were use of glint tape and US flag shoulder insignia.

B. Family Support Groups.

Questions to Be Addressed


Inflated casualty list [caused by inclusion initially of jump injuries and heat exhaustion]

Why didn't the casualty reporting system work; Next of Kin notification

5th MASH forward surgical team

Graves Registration


Weather Support

7th Infantry Division's weather team did not start south until evening of 26 December

Deterioration of weather as front moves in on 25 December


211520R TF BAYONET reports finding 50 kilograms of cocaine in Building 8, Fort Amador

240830Z 82d Abn Div finds over 40 rockets

241615Z 2/504th Inf finds booby-trapped cache at Alto de Golf (PV 646946)

Did DIGBATs actually place caches in hospitals? Initial reporting said suspected at Santo Tomas (PV 614916), Los

Ninos (PV 613914), Nicholas (PV 342819)

25 December 1989 1st Brigade, 7th Infantry Division reported finding cache of money and drugs in late afternoon


President Bush's call to LTG Stiner

Why couldn't anyone fix the bad DZ as the drop went on

Congestion in air operations at Panama end of pipeline caused by congestion at Howard and Torrijos; especially aircraft parking congestion at Howard

How was JTF SOUTH to JTF PANAMA hand-off executed to allow rapid withdrawal

Fire Support

AC-130 as primary fire support system

Armed helicopter fire support

AH-1 Cobra(s) used in the fire support to the Renacer Prison air assault; fires for supporession; as of 21 Dec 89 no estimateon casualties it caused

AH-64 Apache(s) used to escort air assault to Panama Viejo; destroyed two V-300s and three 2.5-ton trucks

AH-64 Apache(s) used to escort air assault to Tinajitas; kill ten personnel

AH-64 Apache(s) used to escort air assault to Fort Cimarron; do not engage

Tactical Airpower

AC-130 fire credited with destroying one mortar in a pickup truck

AM 21 December one OA-37 reacted to mortar fire near San Isidro; fired 28 rockets while awaiting A-7s (who later strafed)

[Tinajitas air assault coverage]

Night 21/22 December two OA=37 flights drop flares

Night 21/22 December four AC-130 flights flown:

Two support firefight at Rio Hato

Two other missions around Panama City did not fire

211900Z Dec 89 AWACS coverage begins by 0100Z 23 Dec 89 there have been 25 OA-37 sorties, but only one expended ordnance -- firing rockets to knock out a mortar that had been firing at Albrook AB and Gorgas Hospital

Night 22/23 December AC-130s expended ordnance at Rio Hato

23 December normal A-7 rotational element from 114th Tactical Fighter Group (Sioux City, IA) arrives at Howard AFB to relieve the element from Toledo, OH


Aviation operational readiness levels

Critical spare parts resupply

Usage levels (e.g., flying hours) of key systems

Enemy Casualties

Medical treatment

Graves Registration

C-130 backhaul of POWs from Rio Hato (323 moved on first 5 of 6 shutle flights; equipment on 6th)

As of 25 December (SITREP 009, 260539Z Dec 89) enemy losses reported as 293 KIA, 123 WIA, 4,446 EPW/Detainees; captured equipment includes 33 aircraft, 7 ships/boats, 36 armored vehicles and 33,128 weapons.

Reserve Components

Evening of 26 December first civil affairs reservists arrive

Home Station Training Issues [issues raised for CALL team]

What was the training focused on

Training management




XVIII Airborne Corps ability to reconstitute for Contingency Mission

Triggering Incidents

16 Dec 89 shooting (2100 hours): 4 personnel from USSOUTHCOM in car shot at at intersection of Avenida A and Calle 20 in the Chorrillo section of Panama City

1LT Robert Paz (USMC) -- killed

CPT Richard E. Hadded (USMC) -- wounded

CPT Barry L. Rainwater (USA)

LT Michael J. Wilson (USN)

Enemy Casualties and Key Personnel Reported

8th Infantry Company

Commander (MAJ Gudra), 3 officers, 57 enlisted surrender to 3d Brigade, 7th Infantry Division

Chief of Police

LTC Maylin surrenders (? 22 Dec)

Luis Del Cid captured 25 December 1989; moved to Howard AFB where arrested and flown out to Homestead AFB, FL

82d Airborne Division DRB-1 Package for JUST CAUSE


three infantry battalions

one company (-) from 3d Battalion, 73d Armor

one battalion (-) from DIVARTY [battalion commander plus 4 guns]

one battery from 3d Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery

one company from 307th Engineer Battalion

one company from 313th Military Intelligence Battalion

Division Troops

Assault Command Post

313th Military Intelligence Battalion (-)

82d Signal Battalion (-)

DISCOM command and control element

Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group

Class III/V section

82d Military Police Company (-)

1st Battalion (-), 58th Aviation [air traffic control]


civil affairs element

psychological operations element

82d Airborne Division D-Day Task Organization

Task Force ALPHA

1st Battalion (-), 504th Infantry

1st Platoon, Company A, 307th Engineer Battalion

Team, Company A, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion

1st Squad, 1st Platoon, 82d Military Police Company


Civil Affairs team

Fire Support Element

Tactical Air Control Party

Task Force BRAVO

2d Battalion (-), 504th Infantry

2d Platoon, Company A, 307th Engineer Battalion

Team, Company A, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion

2d Squad, 1st Platoon, 82d Military Police Company


Civil Affairs team

Fire Support Element

Tactical Air Control Party

Task Force CHARLIE

4th Battalion (-), 325th Infantry

1st Platoon, Company C, 3d Battalion, 73d Armor

3d Platoon, Company A, 307th Engineer Battalion

Team, Company A, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion

3d Squad, 1st Platoon, 82d Military Police Company


Civil Affairs team

Fire Support Element

Division/JTF SOUTH Reserve

Company A, 3d Battalion, 505th Infantry

1st Brigade command, control, logistical elements

US Air Force Elements involved in Airborne Landings

62d Tactical Airlift Wingpersonnel drop

63d Tactical Airlift Wingpersonnel drop

317th Tactical Airlift WingRanger drop

437th Military Airlift Wingheavy drop overall command

438th Military Airlift Wingheavy drop