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The Panama Canal - engineering achievement and common sense

Between 1984 and 2002 I crossed the Panama Canal many times on different cruise ships. Each time I was fascinated by this monumental structure and by the simplicity of its operations based on physical principles.


Who came up with this idea? Why did the construction of the canal lead to the biggest financial crisis in history? Why did almost 30,000 workers lose their lives and why did the US Americans take over world domination from the British through the construction of the canal? These are the questions to be answered.


At the end of the article you will find a video I recorded, which impressively shows the journey through the Panama Canal with our ship.

 

In 1513, the Spaniard Vasco Núñez de Balboa and a group of followers were the first to cross the isthmus. The idea of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through a canal in the Central American province of Darién was suggested by Emperor Charles V in 1523. On his behalf, Hernando de la Serna searched for a suitable way to build a canal in 1527.

The first project was elaborated by the Spaniard Alvarado de Saavedra Colón in 1529. In the following centuries, a number of politicians and scientists dealt with the issue of a canal construction. At the beginning of the 19th century, this was especially true of Alexander von Humboldt, who explored Latin America from 1799 to 1804. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe predicted in 1827 that it would be the "youthful state" of the United States that would build a canal.


For hundreds of years, mankind dreamed about a shortcut to the dangerous sea route around the Americas. The routes New York City around the dangerous Cape Horn to San Francisco by sea is 25,000 km. The Panama Canal reduces the distance to 10,000 km.



Following gold discoveries in California, a license was granted for a railroad in Panama in 1848. In 1849-1853, gold miners used a river-land route through the Isthmus of Panama.



 

The political situation in Panama around 1880.

In 1821, Panama seceded from Spain and became part of Greater Colombia under Simón Bolívar.

 

Following the financial success of the Suez Canal in Egypt, opened in 1869, it was assumed in France that a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would be just as easy to build. These thoughts took shape when the Société Civile Internationale du Canal Interocéanique was created in Paris in 1876, followed by the Panama Canal Company by French law in 1879, with the 73-year-old Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal, appointed president.

Weltblatt 27.3.1881


Lesseps is a retired diplomat, not an engineer. But he manages to get other people excited about his projects. "The genius of Ferdinand de Lesseps lies in his willpower," wrote his friend Jules Verne. Lesseps had already had the Suez Canal dug through the desert of Egypt.

Ferdinand Marie Vicomte de Lesseps.


He founds the Panama Canal Interoceanic Construction Company and starts raising money. "Alone in France, where people are used to working for civilization in the world, I will find the necessary capital," he says. Few large investors and banks put money, it is mainly private small investors who invest.


The plan was to build a lockless canal across the Isthmus of Panama with a length of 73 kilometers. The excavation was not to exceed 120 million cubic meters.



 

Panama Canal easier to complete than Suez Canal?

300 million francs were initially raised, Ferdinand de Lesseps estimated a construction period of eight years, and construction work began on February 1, 1881. "The Panama Canal will be easier to start, easier to complete and easier to maintain than the Suez Canal," prophesied Lesseps, who was already being called "the great Frenchman" in France. But his construction plans fail grandiosely. Only once does he inspect the construction work on site, during a brief dry spell.


Workers from Jamaica.


During the rainy seasons, mudslides slide down the slopes. Thousands of workers become infected with the pathogens of yellow fever and malaria on the swampy construction site, and a total of 25,000 of them probably die. Lesseps did not consider the working conditions in the jungle. Nevertheless, he maintains for a long time, "It's an operation whose exact mathematics are well known." But ever new difficulties bring the construction work to a standstill: earthquakes, floods, fires, material defects, management personnel carried off by malaria and yellow fever. The costs explode. And France learns nothing.


Construction of the canal in 1888.


Workers receive their weekly wages.


The construction work caused the migration of over 100,000 workers to the region, most of whom never returned home. During the construction period from 1881 to 1889, 22,000 workers (7.5 lives per day) died in the swampland from yellow fever and malaria, whose pathogens were still unknown. On the advice of French doctors, it was ordered in 1883 during the construction of the canal that the posts of the workers' beds be placed in buckets of water to protect them from malaria. However, the buckets became breeding grounds for malaria mosquitoes, and the disease spread rapidly, which was one of the reasons why construction had to be stopped. Crosses were placed around the construction site; corpses were shipped to Europe in vinegar barrels so that more crosses would not have to be erected.



For a while, the canal construction company succeeds in deceiving the public about the progress of the construction work. Journalists, politicians and bank employees are bribed, all glossing over the progress of construction.



 

In 1887, under pressure from the poor financial situation, Ferdinand de Lesseps revised the plans and signed a contract with engineer Gustave Eiffel to build a canal with locks by 1890. The cost of the canal was estimated at 1.6 billion gold francs.



Due to planning deficiencies, incorrect geological surveys, poor organization, bribery, countless technical difficulties and mishaps, the French finally gave up for financial and political reasons and stopped the work in 1889.


After the planned eight-year construction period, only one-sixth of the line was completed. Small investors invested more than one billion francs. In vain: the canal construction company is bankrupt and so are some of the investors. The affair escalates into the biggest financial scandal of the 19th century. 510 French members of parliament are accused of bribery by the Panama Canal Company, but never charged. The "great Frenchman" loses everything: he is one of the few to be sentenced to prison for bribery, and in the last two years of his life he is considered a dismantled hero. However, the sentence is later annulled. The trials are confusing and confounding, and to this day the scandal is not considered fully resolved.


Ferdinand de Lesepps, to whom Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera 'Aida' in honor of the opening of the Suez Canal, now sat on a shambles in his small country house in France.

 

Why Lessep's simple cut-through from the Atlantic to the Pacific would never have worked.


Basically, you can say that the water level (altitude) is the same on all seas.

But this is not really true. The water surface of the Atlantic is 22 cm lower than that of the Pacific. The Atlantic is more salty and the water has a higher density (weight) and therefore lies deeper.

As we know, our mother earth is not completely round, so there are different gravitational forces at different positions, which influence the height of the sea water.


In addition, there are the different tidal differences between the Atlantic and the Pacific.


Simply digging a trench as in the Suez Canal would never have worked here.

 

In 1894, a hive-off company, the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, took over the continuation of the theoretical work and in 1902 sold the entire complex to the United States for $40 million, which was able to use about 40% of the practical work done up to that time.

Weltblatt 23.1.1898


French engineers had also advised Lesepps from the beginning to pursue a lock variant. Unfortunately, however, he did not listen to the engineers.

 

In 1901, U.S. President William McKinley died after an assassination attempt and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took over.


Republican election poster with President William McKinley and Vice President Theodore Rooselvelt in 1900.


Senator John Coit Spooner had convinced President Theodore Roosevelt that the opportunity had now come to get on board the project that was stuck in Panama. Congress cleared the way for this with the Spooner Act, passed in 1902.


The United States had already looked into various canal projects for a crossing of Central America, but had not yet reached any practicable conclusion. Plans for the Panama Canal competed with plans for the Nicaragua Canal. However, the latter was not realized because its investors favored the Panama Canal. Colombia refused, and the Panama conflict arose. After the purchase of the Wyse concession, the United States demanded that Colombia cede the Panama Canal area.


 

In 1900, it took an American steam-powered warship 67 days to get from the East Coast to the West Coast. The canal was of enormous strategic importance to the US.

 

Vorarlberger Volksblatt 22.2.1903


 

In November 1903, US troops landed, occupied the territory and proclaimed the independent state of Panama. The U.S. government believed that this would speed up the construction of the canal, which was considered absolutely necessary for strategic reasons. On November 18, 1903, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and a former associate of Ferdinand de Lesseps, French engineer Philippe Bunau-Varilla, agreed on a state treaty - known as the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty - for the use of a canal zone ten miles (16 kilometers) wide, five miles on either side of the canal route, its occupation, and its unrestricted control.


U.S. Marines in Panama.


The United States thus controlled a canal zone 84,000 hectares in size. However, they had to pledge Panama's territorial sovereignty. The treaty also provided for the payment of $10 million and an annual payment of $250,000 in gold beginning in 1913.


The U.S. formally took control of the canal property on May 4, 1904, inheriting from the French a decimated workforce and a huge mess of buildings, infrastructure, and equipment, much of which was in poor condition.


A U.S. government commission, the Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC), was established to oversee construction; it was given control over the Panama Canal Zone, over which the United States exercised sovereignty. The commission reported directly to Secretary of War William Howard Taft and was directed to avoid the inefficiencies and corruption that had plagued the French 15 years earlier.


Abandoned French Construction Site.


On May 6, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed John Findley Wallace, previously chief engineer and eventually general manager of the Illinois Central Railroad, as chief engineer of the Panama Canal project. Overwhelmed by the disease-ridden country and forced to use often dilapidated French infrastructure and equipment, and frustrated by the overly bureaucratic ICC, Wallace abruptly resigned in June 1905.


He was succeeded by John Frank Stevens, a self-taught engineer who had built the Great Northern Railroad. Stevens was not a member of the ICC; he increasingly viewed its bureaucracy as a serious obstacle, bypassing the commission and sending requests and demands directly to the Roosevelt administration in Washington, DC.



There was a great sense of optimism among engineers in America at the time. Skyscrapers were being built and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City over the East River had just been completed. There was nothing that could not be done.

 

One of the first services Stevens provided in Panama was the construction and reconstruction of shelters, canteens, hotels, water systems, repair shops, warehouses, and other infrastructure needed for the thousands of arriving workers.


Stevens began recruiting thousands of workers from the United States and other areas to work in the Canal Zone. Workers from the Caribbean, known as "Afro-Panamanians," arrived in large numbers, and many settled permanently. Stevens sought to provide housing where the workers could work and live in reasonable safety and comfort.


He also saw to the restoration and extension of the railroad, which was to prove crucial in transporting millions of tons of earth from the cut through the mountains to the dam across the Chagres River.


From the beginning, whites and blacks were strictly segregated. The black workers came mostly from the West Indies. However, the black workers had also earned relatively well.


Black workers' dormitory.


Colonel William C. Gorgas had been appointed chief sanitary officer of the canal construction project in 1904. Gorgas implemented a number of measures to control the spread of deadly diseases, particularly yellow fever and malaria, the transmission of which by mosquitoes had recently been demonstrated by the work of Dr. Carlos Finlay and Dr. Walter Reed. Investments were made in extensive sanitation projects, including municipal water systems, fumigation of buildings, spraying of insect breeding sites with oil and larvicides, installation of mosquito nets and window screens, and elimination of standing water.


Despite opposition from the commission (one member called his ideas crazy), Gorgas persisted, and when Stevens arrived, he championed the project. After two years of intensive work, the diseases spread by mosquitoes were almost eradicated.


Despite all these efforts, about 5,600 workers died from disease and accidents during the construction phase of the canal in the United States.


Mosquito nest control.

Stevens argued against a canal at sea level, as the French had attempted to build. He convinced Theodore Roosevelt of the need for an elevated canal, to be built with dams and locks.

 

Work on the canal was more or less stopped.

 

The tides.

The tidal range in Colon's Lemon Bay (Atlantic Ocean) is just 60 cm. In the Gulf of Panama on the Pacific side, the tidal range is 6.55 meters.

 

Steven's plan for the Panama Canal.

At an elevation of just 26 meters above sea level was the great marsh of Gatun and Gamboa. This was the catchment area of the Rio Chagres and other small rivers. If this rainforest area were dammed, islands would remain, but a large stretch would become navigable for ships.


Since, as we know, water always flows downward, the lake could fill the locks in both directions without a single pump. Basic condition. The reservoir would always have to supply enough water, since huge amounts of water would flow into the sea per operation. To achieve this, Stevens had millions of additional trees planted.


In addition, the reservoir could be used to operate an electrical power plant that would supply all the electricity for the canal zone.


The Culebra Mountain cut-through still had to be accomplished, but the French had already done the preliminary work.


The locks that were built therefore had to raise the ships by 26 meters and lower them again.


1906 entschieden sich die Amerikaner für diese Variante.


In the rainforest, dam walls were built at four locations with the excavated material from the canal. The walls had a crown width of 30 meters. Gatun Lake was fed by the Rio Chagres. On the Pacific side, Miraflores Reservoir was created, fed by Rio Grande.

 

The dredged channel in Lake Gatun is 29 km along the former bed of the Rio Chagres.


The hundred meter high Culebra mountain had to be pierced 80 meters over a length of 13 km. On the Culebra or Gaillard breakthrough 6000 workers worked for seven years. David du Bose Gaillard was the lead US Army engineer.


Until 2002, the Culebra Cut was only navigable by larger ships in one lane because of its narrow width. So this stretch had to be covered in convoy. After that, the channel had been widened.

 

The locks.

33 meters wide, 330 meters long, the stroke on the Atlantic side 23 meters, on the Pacific side 30 meters. At the upper chambers there are two lock gates I with a distance of 24 meters. Each door leaf is about 20 meters and 14 to 25 meters high. The thickness is 2.2 meters. The lower part of the gates is hollow so that the gates can be moved when water enters. Two 19 kw electric motors are sufficient to set the gates in motion via connecting rods. The chamber has 8 water inlets on both sides to allow the water to flow without turbulence. The width of the solid concrete separation wall between the two fairways is 18 meters.


The chambers hold 100,000 cubic meters of water. Thus, one pass consumes 200,000 cubic meters of water as the water flows down both sides of the canal into the respective chamber below.


The canal is 82 km long, including the access road.

 

The construction of a canal with locks required the excavation of more than 13 million cubic yards of material, in addition to the 23 million cubic yards excavated by the French.


As quickly as possible, the Americans replaced or modernized the old, useless French equipment with new construction machinery designed for a much larger and faster scope of work. 102 large, railroad-mounted steam shovels were purchased. In addition, huge steam-powered cranes, giant hydraulic rock crushers, concrete mixers, excavators, and pneumatic drills were added, almost all of which were manufactured using new, comprehensive mechanical engineering technology designed and built in the United States.


In addition, the rail line had to be extensively modernized, with heavy-duty double-track rails laid over most of the line to accommodate the new rolling stock. In many places, the new Gatun Lake flooded the original rail line, so a new line had to be built above the Gatun Lake waterline.


In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Canal Zone.


The president on the excavator.


Welt Blatt 25.11.1906

 

When Stevens had finished above tasks, he quit surprisingly and to Roosevelt's displeasure, declaring that he had fulfilled his contract to the letter. This stated that he was to work on it until he himself could say with certainty that it would succeed or fail. The reasons for his termination are disputed. It is suspected that he realized he was the best man for planning but not for execution. Another anecdote says that he simply managed the part that was interesting to him and the real challenge, and that the execution just bored him. A letter from his successor to his son speaks of Mr. Stevens having organized the construction so perfectly that there was really nothing for him to do except maintain the organization.

 

Welt Blatt 24.3.1907


Stevens resigned as chief engineer in 1907, and his successor, appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, was U.S. Army Major George Washington Goethals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Goethals, soon promoted to lieutenant colonel and later general, was a strong West Point-trained leader and a civil engineer with experience in canal construction (unlike Stevens). Goethals directed the Panama work, which he successfully completed in 1914, two years ahead of schedule on 10 June 1916.



Goethals teilte die Ingenieur- und Grabungsarbeiten in drei Abteilungen auf: Atlantik, Zentral und Pazifik. Die Atlantik-Division unter Major William L. Sibert war für den Bau des massiven Wellenbrechers am Eingang der Limon-Bucht, der Gatun-Schleusen und ihres 5,6 km langen Zufahrtskanals sowie des riesigen Gatun-Damms verantwortlich. Die Pazifik-Division unter Sydney B. Williamson (dem einzigen zivilen Mitglied dieses hochrangigen Teams) war ebenfalls für den 4,8 km langen Wellenbrecher in der Panamabucht, den Zufahrtskanal zu den Schleusen sowie die Miraflores- und Pedro-Miguel-Schleusen und die dazugehörigen Dämme und Stauseen verantwortlich


Die Zentral Division unter Major David du Bose Gaillard vom United States Army Corps of Engineers wurde mit einer der schwierigsten Aufgaben betraut: dem Ausheben des Culebra Cut durch die kontinentale Wasserscheide, um den Gatun See mit den Schleusen des pazifischen Panamakanals zu verbinden.

 

Excavations at Gatun Lake.




 

The Culebra Cut repeatedly caused landslides.




 

The black workers at the food bank.


Dining room of the white workers.


 

Works 1907.



 

American engineers around 1908.


 

Gatun Lock.


 

In 1908, President Roosevelt declined to serve a 3rd term and Republican William Taft became President of the United States.


 

Work on the Gatun locks.




One of 8 outlets at Gatun Reservoir.


 

Österreichische Illustrierte Zeitung 19.12.1909


 

Visit by U.S. President William Taft (left) and Chief Engineer George Goethals (right.


 

A group of Spanish workers.


 

Construction of the Pedro Miguel lock in 1910.


 

The Culebra Cut.


 

Volksfreund, 3.12.1910


The gates were fabricated in component parts in Pittsburgh, Pensilvania, shipped and assembled on site.

 

In 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected the 28th President of the United States of America.


 

A group of Italian workers.


The two-family houses of the superiors.


A worker's house for ten black families.


 

The canal zone was fortified by the Americans. Until 2000, the Canal Zone was a restricted military area with a large American naval base.


Vorarlberger Landeszeitung 13.10.1911


 

Miraflores locks 1912.


Culebra Cut 1912.


 

Gatun locks 1912.



 

Culebra Cut 1913.


 

Many workers lost their lives during blasting operations because the dynamite kept igniting itself due to the heat.


Black workers' quarters.


 

Innsbrucker Nachrichten 10.2.1913


Again and again landslides 1913.


 

Pedro Miguel Schleusen 1913.



 

Miraflores locks 1913.



 

Gatun locks 1913.


 

The Gatun reservoir was filled in 1913.


The overwater of the Gatun Lake at reservoir. Behind it is the power plant.


 

Vorarlberger Volksblatt 6.8.1913


 

Miraflores locks test operation 1913.


 

Vorarlberger Landeszeitung 6.9.1013


On October 10, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegraphic signal from the White House that triggered the explosion that destroyed Gamboa Dam. This flooded the Culebra Cut and connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Panama Canal.


The final blast of the dike flooding the Culebra Cut.


 

The first ship voyages were advertised.


Neue Freie Presse 19.3.1914



 

Welt Blatt 29.3.1914


The U.S. Gator was the first ship to enter the Gatun Lock.


 

Vorarlberger Volksblatt 28.4.1914


The reason was major political unrest in Mexico, including on the border with the United States.

 

Vorarlberger Volksblatt 19.5.1914



 

Vorarlberger Volksblatt 9.6.1914


Again and again landslides 1914.


 

The rack-and-pinion railroads in the locks.


The ships are moored in the locks with up to six General Electric locomotives on both sides with steel cables, depending on their size. This causes the ships to stay in the middle of the lock. However, the ships move through the locks under their own power.



 

Welt Blatt 16.6.1914


The opening of the canal was celebrated with the S.S. Ancon on 15.8.1914.


The opening was completely lost in the news coverage with the outbreak of the World War.

 

At peak times, up to 50,000 workers were working on the canal project at the same time. One must be aware of the logistics of so many people in this inhospitable area.


The cost of the canal, now built with locks and reservoirs, was $386 million. During construction in 1906-1914, 5,609 workers died from accidents and disease (still about 1.9 deaths per day). In total, the construction claimed about 28,000 lives.

 

The S.S. Kroonland 1915.


 

A very nice documentary in English about the Panama Canal construction, which was also filmed on our Royal Viking Sea.

 

The fact that the United States retained sovereignty over the canal and the Panama Canal Zone, a strip of land along the canal, repeatedly caused tension between the U.S. government and Panama.


In the 1930s, water supply to the canal became a problem, leading to the construction of Madden Dam across the Chagres River above Lake Gatun. Completed in 1935, the dam created Lake Madden (later Lake Alajeula), providing additional water storage for the canal.


 

In 1935 and 1936, the first revisions to the relevant agreements occurred, which included an increase in annual payments by the United States to Panama to $430,000 and the granting to Panama of a land corridor through the Canal Zone, denying the United States the right to intervene.


In 1939, construction began on another major improvement: a new set of locks large enough to carry the larger warships the United States was building at the time and intended to continue building. The work dragged on for several years, and extensive excavation was done on the new approach channels, but the project was abandoned after World War II.


The USS Missouri.


 

After World War II, U.S. control of the canal and the canal zone surrounding it became contentious; relations between Panama and the United States became increasingly strained. Many Panamanians believed that the zone rightfully belonged to Panama; student protests were met with the fencing of the zone and an increased military presence.

Demands for the United States to hand over the canal to Panama increased after the 1956 Suez Crisis, when the United States used financial and diplomatic pressure to force France and the United Kingdom to abandon their attempt to regain control of the Suez Canal, which had previously been nationalized by the Nasser regime in Egypt. The unrest in Panama culminated in the riots on Martyrs' Day, January 9, 1964, in which some 20 Panamanians and 3-5 U.S. soldiers were killed.



A decade later, in 1974, negotiations began to settle the conflict, resulting in the Torrijos-Carter treaties. On September 7, 1977, the treaty was signed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos, the de facto leader of Panama. This set in motion the process that granted the Panamanians free control of the Canal, as long as Panama signed a treaty that guaranteed the permanent neutrality of the Canal.


The treaty resulted in Panama gaining full control of the Canal at noon on December 31, 1999, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) taking command of the waterway. The Panama Canal remains one of Panama's most important sources of revenue.


Since then, the canal has been managed by the Panama Canal Authority (Spanish: Autoridad del Canal de Panamá - ACP). The authority is autonomous, however its board is appointed by the Panamanian president.

 

Passage fees.

The fees for a passage are calculated according to a complex fee table that has been in force since 2011 and differentiates between the type and size of the ship, whether it is loaded or sailing under ballast, and includes a variety of basic and ancillary fees, such as those for pilots, pasacables, locomotives and tugs. As a guide to the charges incurred, the basic charges of $72 per standard container and $134 per passenger berth can be used. A container ship with the maximum possible 4,600 TEU would therefore incur basic charges of US$340,400 plus the ancillary charges mentioned. For a cruise ship designed to the Panamax dimensions, such as the Coral Princess or its sister ship Island Princess, each with 1,970 passenger beds, a basic fee of 263,980 US dollars is therefore paid plus the booking fee for passage and the other ancillary fees, resulting in a total of just under 400,000 US dollars (as of April 2012). By comparison, the Queen Elizabeth 2 had to pay only $99,000 for its Panama Canal passage in 2003 before fees were changed to reflect the number of passenger beds.

Also before the new fee scale was introduced, the highest price for an auctioned passage was $220,300 for a tanker that was able to pass through a queue of 90 ships in August 2006 as a result and avoid a seven-day wait due to the closure of a lock. The normal fee would have been only $13,430.

 

In 2000, I was a hotel director on the luxury cruise ship Seven Seas Navigator. During the crossing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Alaska, I filmed an entire Panama Canal transit and provided explanatory commentary for my family back home. On this video my bloggers learn a lot of interesting information and details. The commentary is in my Austrian dialect.


As of Jan. 1, 2000, the Canal Zone was part of Panama. We crossed the Panama Canal on May 14.


6:30 am. Arrival at Lemon Bay (Atlantic side).

 

9:00 am. Lock operation Gatun locks.

 

1 pm. Anchoring in Gatun Lake.


Ship tour on the Seven Seas Navigator.

Built in 1999, six star ultra luxury class with 490 passengers and 340 crew.

 

6.00 pm. Anchor weighed and crossing to the Pacific.

 

Promotion Video of the Seven Seas Navigator.


 

As always, the best comes at the end.

In December 1989, I was hotel director on the Royal Viking Sea. We were on the Christmas cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco. For some reason we had to go into dry dock in Balboa, Panama to have urgent repair work done. The passengers were flown home from Panama City. The crew remained on board.



The work lasted 6 days. In the evening we often went to Panama City. The Royal Viking Sea left Balboa on December 16, 1989 and went back to Fort Lauderdale. I flew from Fort Lauderdale to Zurich on December 19, as my vacation was coming up.


The next day the US Americans attacked Panama.

On December 20, 1989, the Joint Task Force led by General Carl Stiner attacked Panama with a force of about 20,000 men under the overall command of General Maxwell R. Thurman (Commander-in-Chief of the United States Southern Command).


Vorarlberger Nachrichten 21.12.1989


Within four days, nearly all hostilities with the Panamanian National Guard had ended and Noriega fled to the Vatican nunciature, which granted him asylum but urged him to turn himself in. After ten days, Noriega surrendered to U.S. forces on January 3, 1990. He was flown out to Miami, where he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug trafficking. The sentence was reduced to 30 years in 1999.

 

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Klaus Riezler.

 


 
 


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