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Operation Acid Gambit
Part of the United States invasion of Panama
DateDecember 20, 1989
LocationPanama City
Result U.S. victory
United States United States Panama Panama
Commanders and leaders
Col. William G. Boykin Manuel Noriega

United States 23 Delta Force Operators

4 MH-6 Little Birds
Unknown Panamanian Defence Force (PDF) prison guards
Casualties and losses
3 Delta Force soldiers wounded
2 Little Birds crashed

Operation Acid Gambit was a plan to retrieve Kurt Muse, an American civilian living in Panama and widely reported to be a CIA operative[1] from the Carcel Modelo, a notorious prison in Panama City. Muse had been arrested in 1989 for setting up covert anti-Noriega radio transmissions in Panama.[2]

Political considerations delayed the raid, conducted by 23 Delta Force operators and supported by the Night Stalkers, until the United States invaded Panama to arrest Noriega, in Operation Just Cause on December 20, 1989. Delta operators were inserted onto the roof of the prison by MH-6 Little Bird helicopters. One operator was tasked to abseil down 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 roof-top door with breaching charges, the Delta operators raced down the two flights of stairs towards Muse's cell. A Delta operator eliminated the guard who was responsible for killing Muse in case of a rescue. Muse's cell door was blown and 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.[3] Delta Force operators Pat Savidge, James Sudderth, and Kelly Venden were wounded in the crash, while Muse, Delta Force operators Mickey Cantley, John English and the two pilots were uninjured.[4] 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.


  1. Washington Post, May 2, 1991, U.S. Sought Premise for Using Military in Panama; Months Before 1989 Invasion, Bush Was Waiting for Noriega to `Overstep,' , Molly Moore.
  2. New York Times, December 6, 1996, With a Bang, Panama Is Erasing House of Horrors, Larry Rohter.
  3. Special Operations.Com
  4. "Rescue in Panama". 

Mickey Cantley, John English are not DELTA operators. One operator missing is Tom Caldwell, wounded in the crash. The last operator missing was the current team leader of A\2\G.

5- Operators Wounded (4 severely, 1 lightly) - Pat Savidge, James Sudderth, Kelly Venden, Tom Caldwell and the "The last operator missing was the current team leader of A\2\G." was lightly wounded and able to return to duty.

External links

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