Operation Uphold Democracy

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Operation Uphold Democracy
Port-au-Prince airfield seizure.jpg
Soldiers of C Company, 2nd Battalion 22nd Infantry, 10th Mountain Division securing Port-au-Prince Airport on the first day of Operation Uphold Democracy.
Date 19 September 1994 – 31 March 1995
Location Haiti

Operation successful

 United States
Commanders and leaders
Bill Clinton
George Fisher
Sławomir Petelicki
Enrique Molina Pico
Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Raoul Cédras
Émile Jonassaint
Robert Malval
Casualties and losses
1 killed 100-200 killed

Operation Uphold Democracy (19 September 1994 – 31 March 1995) was an intervention designed to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup d'état that overthrew the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The operation was effectively authorized by the 31 July 1994 United Nations Security Council Resolution 940.


The operation began with the alert of United States and its allies for a forced entry into the island nation of Haiti. U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Air Force elements staged to Puerto Rico and southern Florida to prepare to support the airborne invasion, spearheaded by elements of the Joint Special Operations Command[1] (HQ, 75th Ranger Regiment), followed by 3rd Special Forces Group, the US Army 7th Transportation Group (Army watercraft and terminal elements) and the 10th Mountain Division. These elements were staged out of Hunter Army Airfield and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The operation was directed by Commander, Joint Task Force 120 (JTF-120), provided by Commander, Carrier Group Two.[2]

As these forces prepared to invade, the entire 82nd Airborne Division, the lead elements of which were already in the air, a diplomatic element led by former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell persuaded the leaders of Haiti to step down and allow the elected officials to return to power. The main leader holding power was General Joseph Raoul Cédras and was the key focus of the delegation. General Powell's personal relationship with Cédras from when Cédras was a student in the "School of the Americas" as a young officer played a significant role in the American delegation gaining an audience with General Cédras and enabling the conduct of negotiations for approximately two weeks. Despite the capable diplomatic efforts of the American delegation and the insinuation that force would be used if required, negotiations were at a virtual stalemate for the entire time with General Cédras obstinately refusing to concede to the legitimacy of the democratic elections. As a final effort to force the dictator to step down without violence, the delegation presented General Cédras a video feed of the entire 82nd Airborne Division loading aircraft. While allowing Cédras to process the panic-inducing sight, he was informed that while he assumed he was watching a live-feed, he was in fact viewing a video captured more than 2 hours before. As such, they explained unnecessarily, the lead elements of the 15,000 paratrooper strong airborne assault force had already launched from Fort Bragg, N.C. and were currently over the Atlantic Ocean. They further informed him of the United States' commitment to supporting democracy and that a forced-entry airborne assault on the island nation would result in all likelihood, in Haiti being under U.S. control before the sun came up the next morning. The delegation had issued a final ultimatum to the dictator. His choices were to recognize the wish of the Haitian people as expressed through the democratic election of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide and quietly retire, or continue to deny the election's outcome in which case the U.S. would forcibly wrest control of his country and see justice done. To remove all uncertainty from the dictator's mind, he was reminded by the delegation that the 82nd Airborne Division had also spearheaded overwhelmingly decisive victories during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and Operation Just Cause in Panama in the recent past. Within minutes General Cédras capitulated under the most favorable terms available to him at that time.

With his capitulation, the 100+ aircraft carrying the 82nd Airborne Division were either turned around in mid-air or unloaded before they had a chance to take off. The paratroopers returned to their unit areas on Fort Bragg and they resumed their ready status only to have the DRF-1 unit, Task Force Panther deployed to Panama for Operation Safe Haven/Safe Passage on December 12, 1994. The military mission changed from a combat operation to a peace-keeping and nation-building operation with the deployment of the U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti. This force was made up primarily of members of the 3rd Special Forces Group, but also included members of the 16th Military Police Brigade (Fort Bragg, NC), the 101st Military Police Company and 101st Aviation Brigade (Ft. Campbell, KY),3/2 ACR from Ft. Polk LA and Marine Forces Caribbean. Teams were deployed throughout the country to establish order and humanitarian services. Regular Army forces consisting of units from the 10th Mountain Division occupied Port-au-Prince with 3rd Bn (Airborne) 73rd Armor Regiment (82nd Airborne Division) and elements from the U.S. Army Materiel Command provided logistical support in the form of the Joint Logistics Support Command (JLSC) which provided oversight and direct control over all Multinational Force and U.S. deployed logistics units. This included the 46th Support Group, the Joint Material Management Center, JMMC and the follow on civilian contractor LOGCAP. Additionally, the 28th CASH (Combat Support Hospital) provided medical care for service members and Haitians alike.

The U.S. Coast Guard played a significant role in the operation, providing command, control and communications services from the USCGC Chase a 378' high endurance cutters anchored in Port-au-Prince Harbor. Numerous 210' and 270' medium endurance cutters, as well as 110' patrol boats worked with Navy SEAL gunboats to provide security for forces entering and exiting the twelve-mile exclusion zone and Port-au-Prince Harbor. In August 1994, the Battalion departed for the Caribbean and Haitian waters for Operation Support Democracy. 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines once again landed in Cap Haitian, Haiti on September 20, 1994. Participation in Operation Uphold Democracy lasted until October 1994. A squad from Echo Company Engaged in a fire fight with the Haitian police/ military coup. Fourteen Marines led by Lt Polumbo where engaged and prevailed despite superior numbers and superior cover by the Haitians. One Navy interpreter was wounded and several Haitians lost their lives.(Marine 2/2) The 10th Mountain Division was relieved in place by units of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) under command of Major General George Fisher. The 25th Infantry Division deployed on 4 January 1995 from their home station of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and officially assumed command authority from the 10th Division on 9 January 1995. General Fisher and the 25th Infantry Division were the headquarters element of what is officially known as the Multinational Forces, Combined Task Force 190, Republic of Haiti.

The U.S. Army Reserve unit, 458th Transportation Detachment (ATMCT), Belleville, Illinois, was activated and reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina within 48 hours of notification.[citation needed] This was the fastest a Reserve unit has ever been deployed.[citation needed] The 458th manned the 18th Corps Joint Movement Control Center (JMCC) in support of the mission.

Father Jean Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti in October 1994 after 3 years of forced exile.[3] Operation Uphold Democracy officially ended on 31 March 1995 when it was replaced by the U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide presided over the change of authority ceremony. From March 1995 until March 1996, 2,400 U.S. personnel from the original Operation Uphold Democracy remained as a support group commanded by UNMIH under a new operation called Operation New Horizons.[4] A large contingent of U.S. troops (USFORHAITI) participated as peacekeepers in the UNMIH until 1996 (and the U.S. forces commander was also the commander of the U.N. forces). U.N. forces under various mission names were in Haiti from 1995 through 2000. During the operation, one U.S. service member was killed by hostile fire. He was a U.S. special forces staff sergeant shot during a roadside check.

Three Argentine Navy corvettes of the Drummond class joined the mission to force the commercial embargo of Haiti.[5]


  1. ^ Joint Special Operations Command
  2. ^ "Carrier Group Two". Military. GlobalSecurity.org. April 26, 2005. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  3. ^ Von Hippel, Karin (2000). Democracy by Force. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 96. 
  4. ^ John Pike. "Operation New Horizons, globalsecurity.org 05.07.2011.". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "con el propósito de asegurar el cumplimiento del embargo comercial, dispuesto por el Consejo de Seguridad, por medio de las corbetas ARA Grandville, ARA Guerrico y ARA Drummond.". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Award Certificate of Sergeant First Class Gary D. Soots, 25th Infantry Division