The United States Navy contributed extensive special operations assets to the invasion of Panama, code named Operation Just Cause. This included SEAL Teams 2 and 4, Naval Special Warfare Unit 8, Special Boat Unit 26 all falling under Naval Special Warfare Group 2 and the separate Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru). DevGru fell under Task Force Blue while Naval Special Warfare Group 2 composed the entirety of Task Force White. Task Force White was tasked with three principle objectives: the destruction of Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) naval assets in Balboa Harbor and the destruction of Maneul Noriega’s private jet at Paitilla Airport collectivly knows as Operation Nifty Package as well as isolating PDF forces on Flamenco Island.
The strike on Balboa Harbor by Task Unit Whiskey is notably marked in SEAL history as the first publicly acknowledged combat swimmer mission since the Second World War. Prior to the commencement of the invasion five Navy SEALs, Lt Edward L. Coughlin, EN-3 Timothy K. Eppley, ET-1 Randy L. Beausoleil, DC-3 Brian Connell and PH-2 Chris Dye, swam underwater into the harbor on Draeger LAV-V rebreathers and attached C4 explosives to and destroyed Noriega’s personal ship the Presidente Porras.
Task Unit Papa was tasked with the seizure of Paitilla airfield and the destruction of Noriega’s plane there. Several SEALs were concerned about the nature of the mission assigned to them being that airfield seizure was usually the domain of the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. Despite these misgivings and a loss of operational surprise the SEALs of TU Papa proceeded with their mission. Almost immediately upon landing the 92 SEALs came under withering fire from the PDF stationed at the airfield. Although the Noriega’s plane was eventually destroyed the SEALs suffered four dead and thirteen wounded.