Operation Acid Gambit

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Operation Acid Gambit
Part of the United States invasion of Panama
Operation Acid Gambit is located in Panama
Panama City
Panama City
Operation Acid Gambit (Panama)
Date20 December 1989

American victory

  • Mission accomplished.
United States United States Panama Panama
Commanders and leaders
United States Col. Peter J. Schoomaker
United States Eldon Bargewell
United States Gary L. Harrell
Panama Manuel Noriega
Panama Unknown
Units involved
1st SFOD-D
Night Stalkers
Panama Defense Force
23 Delta Operators
4 helicopters
Casualties and losses
4 wounded
2 helicopters crashed
5 killed
1 captured

Operation Acid Gambit was a Delta Force operation to retrieve Kurt Muse, an American civilian living in Panama, from the Cárcel Modelo, a notorious prison in Panama City.


Muse had been arrested in 1989 for setting up covert anti-Noriega radio transmissions in Panama.[1] The raid, conducted by 23 Delta Force operators and supported by the Night Stalkers, was delayed until the United States invaded Panama to arrest Noriega, in Operation Just Cause on 20 December 1989. Muse was later reported to be a CIA operative by The Washington Post.[2]

The Operation[edit]

Leading the operation was Lieutenant Colonel Eldon Bargewell and Major Gary L. Harrell. The Delta operators were inserted onto the roof of the prison by MH-6 Little Bird helicopters. One operator was tasked to climb down to the side of the building, hang outside Muse's cell window, and eliminate the guard charged with killing Muse if a rescue was mounted. However, the guard was not there.

After breaching the rooftop door with breaching charges, the Delta operators raced down the two flights of stairs towards Muse's cell. A Delta operator killed the guard who was responsible for killing Muse in case of a rescue. Muse's lock on his cell door was shot twice, however, the lock was too thick so a small explosive was used to gain access to his cell.[3][4][5] Delta operators gave Muse body-armour, a ballistic helmet and goggles and moved him to the roof, where they would be exfiltrated by MH-6 Little Birds back to the US base.

Their "Precious Cargo" (Muse) was now secure and a Delta operator called in for extraction. During extraction from the prison, the Hughes MH-6 Little Bird helicopter transporting Muse crashed.[6] Delta Force operators Pat Savidge, Lee Goodell, Tom Caldwell, James Sudderth, and Kelly Venden were wounded in the crash. Everyone aboard the helicopter quickly took cover in a nearby building. The Delta operators managed to signal one of the gunships flying over the area with an infrared strobe light, and shortly thereafter an armored personnel carrier from the 5th Infantry Division extracted Muse and the retrieval team.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York Times, December 6, 1996, With a Bang, Panama Is Erasing House of Horrors, Larry Rohter.
  2. ^ Washington Post, May 2, 1991, US Sought Premise for Using Military in Panama; Months Before 1989 Invasion, Bush Was Waiting for Noriega to `Overstep,' , Molly Moore.
  3. ^ {{citeweb|url=http://www.specialoperations.com/Operations/Just_Cause/Acid_Gambit/default2.html
  4. ^ {{Cite |archive-url=https://web.archive.org/web/20131129100843/http://www.specialoperations.com/Operations/Just_Cause/Acid_Gambit/default2.html
  5. ^ "Acid Gambit Archives", ShadowSpear Special Operations, retrieved 27 August 2019
  6. ^ Special Operations.Com Archived 2006-11-13 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]