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United States Invasion of Panama 1989 - 1990

The United States invasion of Panama, known as Operation Just Cause, occurred from December 20 to December 31, 1989. The invasion was launched with the aim of removing General Manuel Noriega, who had been accused of drug trafficking, human rights abuses, and undermining democracy. Tensions between the U.S. and Panama had escalated over the years, leading to a standoff that culminated in the invasion.

On December 20, 1989, U.S. forces initiated the invasion by launching an airborne assault and capturing key targets, including the capital city, Panama City. The operation faced resistance from Panamanian defense forces, leading to intense combat and clashes in various parts of the country. Over the course of the invasion, Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City and eventually surrendered to U.S. authorities on January 3, 1990.

Key figures involved in the invasion included U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who authorized the operation, and General Maxwell R. Thurman, who commanded the U.S. Southern Command responsible for the operation. The invasion was met with mixed reactions; some viewed it as a necessary intervention to remove a dictator and restore democracy, while others criticized it for the civilian casualties and damage caused during the conflict. The invasion marked a significant event in U.S. foreign policy, highlighting the complexities of intervening in sovereign nations for humanitarian and geopolitical reasons.

A timeline of major events during the US Invasion of Panama (1989-1990):


Growing Tensions (Throughout 1989)

Tensions between the US and Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega escalated over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and his suppression of democratic processes.

December 20, 1989

Operation Just Cause Begins

The United States launched Operation Just Cause with the goal of removing Noriega from power and restoring democratic governance in Panama.

Air Strikes and Paratrooper Landings

US forces conducted air strikes on key military targets in Panama City and simultaneously deployed paratroopers to secure key sites.

December 22, 1989:

Battle of Rio Hato - US forces attacked the Panamanian Defense Forces' (PDF) headquarters at Rio Hato, leading to the capture of the facility and the destruction of the PDF's combat capability.

December 20-24, 1989:

Battle of Panama City - Intense urban combat took place in the capital city, with US forces engaging PDF and paramilitary forces loyal to Noriega.

December 24, 1989:

Noriega's Surrender - Manuel Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican Embassy after US forces launched psychological operations to encourage his surrender.

December 25, 1989:

End of Major Combat Operations - The United States announced the end of major combat operations in Panama.

January 3, 1990:

US Withdrawal - US forces began withdrawing from Panama, although a military presence remained for several years.

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