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Operation JUST CAUSE

The files contained in this directory represent raw data compiled during the course of the operation by MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr., the XVIII Airborne Corps Historian who deployed as the Joint Task Force SOUTH Historian, and Ms. Dolores De Mena, the Command Historian for United States Army, South. Additional information continued to be collected in the months after the conclusion of the operation by those individuals, Mr. William Stacy (Command Historian, United States Army Forces Command), and the 44th, 130th, and 320th Military History Detachments.

The files are supplemental in nature, and were not intended to replace the official operational records generated by the participating units. Operational records for Operation JUST CAUSE were generated under the provisions of existing Army Regulations (ARs), particularly the 1986 edition of AR 25-400-2 (The Modern Army Records Keeping System [MARKS]) and AR 220-15 (Journals and Journal Files). Those records, by law, pass through a lengthy retirement process and eventually will be placed in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Requests for information from or access to those written materials should be addressed to the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Division.

Researchers should also be aware of the limitations on the types of information contained in written records generated during combat operations. Such records are created for military purposes, not for the benefit of historians. Staff journals, commonly called TOC (Tactical Operations Center) logs, are normally handwritten records of when radio and message communications were received; the actual communications are attached as journal files. Normally they are maintained on a 24-hour basis with one file for each calendar day. These communications are intended to pass information swiftly; speed is more important than detailed factual accuracy, and reports through this channel frequently contain errors because they are filed before enough time has passed to verify details. Corrections can be made up to several days later, or may never be made.

Situation Reports (SITREPS) created daily by units as part of a regular reporting process are compiled by the operations staff (J-3, G-3, or S-3, depending on echelon of the reporting unit). They depend primarily on the journals and journal files, but are supplemented by verbal information available in the TOC at the time that the report is prepared. These documents are intended to keep higher headquarters informed about the status of the operation, events which have taken place since the last report, and future plans. They also contain errors of fact which may or may not be corrected in subsequent reports.

Intelligence Summaries (INTSUMS) are prepared by the intelligence staff (J-2, G-2 or S-2), normally twice a day. Like SITREPS, they are intended to provide the best available information as of the time of preparation and are not intended to be definitive. These documents address the basic questions of the hostile force's current dispositions, effectiveness, and estimated future intentions.

At the conclusion of Operation JUST CAUSE the Army did not require the preparation of a Command Report, but instead directed participating units to compile an After-Action Report which provided a less comprehensive narrative of events, and instead concentrated on lessons which could be disseminated throughout the Army to improve training and performance in future operations. Researchers interested in these reports should contact the US Army Center for Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The US Army Combat Studies Institute, also at Fort Leavenworth, received the mission to provide monographic coverage of the entire Army involvement in Panama, including Operation NIMROD DANCER which preceded JUST CAUSE, and Operation KINDLE LIBERTY which followed it.

Army historians during combat and contingency operations monitor the information being recorded in the various documents listed above and have the responsibility of advising the units on the historical adequacy of such documents, and of providing on-the-spot supplementation to the written records. During Operation JUST CAUSE the historians providing coverage to the operation focused their attention on conducting photographic missions to ensure that visual documentation of operations would be preserved in a manner which would support subsequent histories. For example, many of the targeted buildings suffered such severe damage that they were destroyed in early 1990 for safety reasons; the historians photographed them before destruction. They also recognized that the written records normally provide information only on "who, what, when and where" questions and turned to the oral history interview techniques created during World War II to supplement the records and to focus on questions of "how" and "why." Many of the interviews took place after the units returned to their home stations. Researchers should contact the Army's various historical offices to determine the extent and availability of oral histories and photographs.

Combat historians also keep their own records of events. Most of the files listed below originated in that manner. They are not complete, since Army historians and many of the units became committed to Operation DESERT SHIELD before the collection of JUST CAUSE data could be completed.

List of Participating Units

Task Organization of Joint Task Force SOUTH


Photographs taken by the XVIII Airborne Corps Historian

Glossary (Definitions of terms used in the operation)

Map List (List of actual map sheets used in the operation)

Places (List of key locations and geographic features)

Grid Locations (Selected military map grid locations)

Order of Battle of the Panamanian Defense Force

XVIII Airborne Corps Historian's Notes on the Operation

XVIII Airborne Corps Historian's Notes on the P.D.F.