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September 9, 2013

2nd Ranger Battalion and the Panama Prison Riot of 1994

There are certain Special Operations legends out there that are sometimes hard to make heads or tails of.  One involves a little-known prison riot in Panama which resulted in a subsequent snatch and grab operation that the 2nd Ranger Battalion was involved in.  The author first heard about this event from his Platoon Leader in a patrol base in Afghanistan with 3/75 back in 2004.  Realizing that this event is under-reported, and parts of it completely unreported, this was clearly something that had to be written about.

As a part of Operation Safe Haven in 1994, thousands of Cuban refugees who had been trying to sail from Cuba to the US in improvised rafts and small boats were detained en route and imprisoned at the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, then transferred to Panama where they were set up in refugee camps.  The program was overseen by the US military, and the refugees were told that they would be granted entry to the United States.


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About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

To comment on this article please join/login. Here's a sample of the comments on this post.

  • Kcoste3

    The story continues with the members of 18th Airborne core: 101st & 1st Cav coming down to complete the task.

  • snoopfighter

    Great story. Didn't know infantry units ran prisons back in the day.

  • panch0villa

    100% legit story Marine Security Forces Company Panama was there in force.  Very very few people know about this one, it is funny to read about it all these years later.

  • templar 6

    This is a great story and which I never heard of as well. I worked short term as a civilan "Corrections" contract advisor for 7th SFG pre Panama invasion and post, specifically for Operation "Just cause". Which makes this even more interesting.

  • trazz

    That's a great story. Axe handles? jeeeez