Tuesday, February 27, 2007

FEMALE ON THE FLOOR! The storming of Panama *3

where we left off:

Taking part in the operation were: the 82’s Assault Command Post, 1st Bde Headquarters: 1st and 2nd Battalions, 504th Parachute Infantry Regt: 4th Bn. 325th Parachute Infantry Regt.: “A” Co. 3rd Bn. 505th Parachute Infantry Regt.: 307th Engineer Bn.: 3rd Bn, 4th Air Defense Artillery, 307th Medical Bn. and the 319th Field Artillery Bn.

Securing Torrijos International Airport where the PDF’s 2nd Infantry Co. Airmobile (“Los Pumas”, “Cougars”) were stationed was one of the chief objectives of the airborne assault and was assigned to Task Force Red, made up of Rangers, and also members of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) and elements of the 96th Civil Affairs Bn, all part of U.S. Army Special Operations Command and with the purpose of dealing with civilian targets.

The assault of Task Force Red was marred by a serious hitch. The ice storm in North Carolina meant that half of the troops to be deployed were delayed about three hours. This did not seriously affect the operation at Torrijos Airport but it delayed the operation which was to move out from Torrijos to attack the nearby PDF garrison at Fort Cimarron, home of the elite 2000 battalion. The Americans were to have secured the bridge over the Pacora River and prevent the 2000 Battalion from advancing down the only road to the Torrijos Airport and Panama City. This was the battalion which rushed into Panama City to rescue Noriega during the October coup when he was held captive by rebel officers in the Comandancia. The great fear of the Americans was that if this battalion broke through to Panama City, past the lightly armed Rangers by now in control of Torrijos Airport, they could cause immense trouble as an urban guerrilla force.

Before the Airborne troops could reach the Pacora Bridge, a convoy of the 2000 Battalion was already on the road bound for the city. Once again, the devastating air power of the Specter [sic] Gunships equipped with 105 mm Howitzer firing 40 lb shells was brought into play. They blew up the first nine vehicles in the convoy and the rest retreated to Fort Cimarron, which was itself pulverized later in the conflict.

Task Force Red also sent paratroopers to Río Hato, 90 miles west of Panama City. World War II airfield built by the U.S. and turned over to Panama. Based there were the 6th and 7th Rifle Companies of the PDF, known as the “Macho de Monte” (a feisty jungle animal). Paratroopers from the 2nd and 3rd Ranger Battalion engaged the Panamanians, supported by heavy air cover, and after a fierce fight, with loss of life on both sides secured the installation, taking about 300 prisoners.

Elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group from Fort Campbell, Ky, flew combat missions in support of Task Force Red and other Special Operations units. Soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 528th Support Bn. (Airborne) 1st Special Operations Command (Airborne) established a forward armaments and refueling point in support of the 160th.

cont’d. below

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