Tuesday, February 27, 2007

FEMALE ON THE FLOOR! Storming of Panama *4

Task Force Pacific, composed of the 82nd Airborne’s 4-325th, 1-504th and 2-504th Parachute Infantry Regiments, tackled the Panama Defense Forces Cavalry squadron at Panama Viejo and the 1st Infantry Co. (Los Tigres) at Tinajitas where they encountered stiff resistance.

One of the firefights which broke out in Panama City following the main assault took place at the Marriott Caesar Park Hotel. Dignity Battalion gunmen had made sorties on the hotel during the day of the invasion and had taken American hostages from among both staff and guests and held them for a few hours. Members of the 82nd Airborne arrived and evacuated the hotel freeing 14 Americans who had barricaded themselves in the basement. Shooting broke out during this operation during which a Spanish new photographer was killed and another photographer badly wounded. Other journalists at the scene say that American soldiers, nervous of snipers, began firing at each other. Some accounts say that snipers were indeed at work.

At Colon, the Atlantic gateway to the Panama Canal, Task Force Atlantic comprising soldiers from the 82 Airborne Division’s 3-504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, joined by the 7th Infantry Division’s 4-17th Infantry, reported that they easily subdued the PDF 8th Infantry Co. but encountered heavy resistance before overwhelming a PDF naval infantry company near the port of Coco Solo.

An element of Task Force Atlantic went to Gamboa midway across the isthmus to protect a U.S. housing area. They also took Gamboa Prison, releasing former PDF officers and men held there since October for their part in the unsuccessful coup against Noriega.

No bookmaker would have bothered to give odds on the outcome of the battle. The Americans launched 26,000 troops with massive air support in a night-time attack against about 3,500 soldiers of the Panama Defense Forces distributed in isolated garrisons throughout the republic. It is remarkable that Noriega’s army offered any resistance at all, knowing full well the might of the military machine which had been launched against them.

Psychologically, however, they had been prepared for the American invasion. The fighting elements of the PDF were tough, disciplined and well trained. A high proportion had in fact been trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas which located in Panama from 1946 to 1984 when it was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia. The PDF did a good job on brainwashing its soldiers, as do all armies, in the matter of discipline, loyalty to the flag and laying down of life for country and cause. The cause, apart from occasionally subduing un-armed civilian protesters, was to defend Panama from the Yankee aggressor, according to Noriega and his group.

The Panamanian soldiers who refused to surrender at the urging of the U.S. troops bellowing through their bellhorns, were doing their duty. The ones who shed their uniforms and melted into sidestreets and mountainsides can hardly be blamed for their pragmatism.

to be continued

Jones, Kenneth J., The Enemy Within: Casting Out Panama’s Demon
Copyright © 1990 Focus Publications, (Int.), S.A.

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