~ 720th Military Police Battalion History Project ~
1983 ~ Battalion Timeline

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89th MP
This Page Last Updated  14 July 2018
At the start of the year Battalion HQ Detachment and its letter companies were headquartered subordinate to the 89th MP Brigade, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas.
720th MP

Exact Date Unknown The 720th MP Battalion deployed the 401st MP Company, under the command of CPT Charles Bradley, several members of the 410th MP Company, LEA (Law Enforcement Activities) Provost Marshall Investigators and a Criminal Investigations Division agent assigned as security, primarily for engineer units during Operation BIG PINE II (Ahuas Tara II), Honduras.

If you have Information, orders, photographs or personal stories relating to Operation BIG PINE II, please contact the History Project Manager via the Email Link above.
Operation BIG PINE II
(Ahuas Tara II), Honduras
August 1983 - February 1984
     The country of Nicaragua is the largest in Central America (57,143 square miles - slightly larger than Iowa), and is the geographic center of the region. Straddled between the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans, Nicaragua is bordered on the north by El Salvador and Honduras, both contending with leftist Communist insurgencies. To the south lies politically neutral Costa Rica, which has no military and is the only land buffer between Nicaragua and Panama. Both Honduras and Costa Rica provide sanctuaries to the Sandinista counterrevolutionary forces seeking to topple the Nicaraguan government.

     The Sandinist National Liberation Front, acronym  FSLN, (Sandinista's) was a Marxist left-wing Nicaraguan political party named for Augusto Cesar Sandino, a former insurgent leader and was formed in 1962 to oppose the Nicaraguan regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1979 the  Sandinista's launched a Communist offensive from Costa Rica and Honduras that toppled Somoza.


     They established a military junta that nationalized such industries as banking and mining, postponed elections, and moved steadily to the left eventually espousing Communist Marxist-Leninist positions. The Sandinista dominated government was opposed by U.S. supported guerrillas known as the  "Contras." In 1984, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra, won the Nicaraguan presidency in an election that was boycotted by some opposition groups.

     The "Contras" (from the Spanish term La Contra, short for movement of the contrarrevolucionarios, meaning counter-revolutionaries) were the armed opponents of Nicaragua's FSLN, Communist Cuban and Union Of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), supported Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction following the July 1979 overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the ending of the Somoza family's 43-year rule.

USSR / Russia


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     The label was commonly used by the U.S. press to cover a range of groups opposed to the Sandinistas, with little in the way of ideological unity; thus some references use the uncapitalized form, contra, which means against or counter in Spanish.

     The Sandinistas Take Power and create a Nicaraguan Socialist State, President Jimmy Carter's (D) Administration decides on appeasment with $99,000,000,000 in monitary aid as their diplomatic approach. The Sandisistas see it as a lack of strength and commitment.

July 19, 1979 : The Sandinistas take power. They soon declare a state of emergency and expropriate land and businesses owned by the old dynastic family and their associates; nationalize banks, mines, transit systems; abolish the old courts, the constitution, and the legislature; organize peasants and workers into Civil Defense Committees; and declare that elections are unnecessary because the FSLN made the decisions. This prompted criticism from the Catholic Church and business interests, and the Sandinistas arrested dissidents.


     Carter sends $99 million in aid to the FSLN so that it would become pro-U.S. Meanwhile, Cuban officials fly to Nicaragua to advise the FSLN on foreign and domestic policy and the FSLN sought an alliance with the Soviet Bloc.


     August 28, 1979 : The FSLN passes three decrees limiting the freedom of the press and political organizing.


     September 12, 1979 : Carter releases remaining aid that is due to Nicaragua.


      During the early 1980s, the conflict in Central America increased Honduras’s strategic importance and led the United States government to maintain a significant military presence in the region as a counterforce against the new Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The purpose, according to senior United States officials, was to demonstrate the ability of U.S. military forces to operate in Central America and to persuade the Sandinista government of Nicaragua to desist from fomenting Communist insurrection and influence via financial and material assistance from Cuban and Union Of Socialist Soviet Republic-USSR (Russia) in the region. The mission, a joint U.S. Honduran military exercise was called Operation BIG PINE, and was the largest of its kind ever held in the country. The U.S. troops and materials provided for joint training to help Honduran forces improve their deployment techniques, logistical support in the field and improve their military support facilities. A number of U.S. military advisors remained behind to continue training in infantry tactics and service a new radar installation built in Tegucigalpa.


     The administration of President Ronald W. Regan (R) cuts off support to Sandinistas and begins  a show of strength and aid to the Contras.

     January 20, 1981 : Reagan is inaugurated in the context of a rightward shift in U.S. politics and concern about the Soviet Union. Due to the continued unwillingness of the Sandinistas to stop their support of Salvadoran rebels, Reagan soon cuts off all aid to the FSLN indefinitely. This prompts the FSLN to suggest that the U.S. would invade, thereby justifying further consolidation of power and crackdowns on perceived enemies.


      Early 1981 : FSLN becomes more radical as moderates are kicked off of the governing junta. Eventually, Arturo Cruz and Éden Pastora became disaffected with the revolution and defected.


     March 9, 1981 : Reagan authorizes the CIA to help interdict arms trafficking to El Salvador, but this does not give them the power to arm rebel groups. Concurrently, the administration tries to convince the FSLN to stop their activities.


      December 1, 1981 : Reagan signs the order allowing the CIA to support the contras with arms, equipment, and money in order to put pressure on the regime. This is concurrent with U.S. efforts at diplomatic initiatives and the strengthening of pro-U.S. regimes in Central America. Covert activities are viewed as the best way to pressure the regime. The Contras are trained by Argentineans and operated out of Honduras.


     March 14, 1982 : Opposition forces blow up 2 bridges, including one used to ship supplies to Salvadorian rebels. The Sandinistas impose state of emergency and crack down on the opposition while tightening press restrictions.


     April 1982 : Pastora declares that he is going to take up arms against the regime. In May, Robelo declares his support and soldiers leave the Sandinistan army to join Pastora.


     June 1982 : The birth of the Reagan Doctrine is publicly announced. This is Reagan’s policy of supporting democratization everywhere. Thus, the goal of covert operations in Nicaragua shifts from one of ostensibly interdicting arms to supporting a change in government.


     Critics alleged that the U.S. Forces used the operation as cover to continue to funnel arms and materials to the Contra forces fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua under a not so secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation.

     During Operation BIG PINE II, August 1983-February 1984, the U.S. forces carried out, a considerably more extensive military exercise than the earlier Big Pine maneuvers. Up to 5,000 United States military personnel, were involved in extensive naval maneuvers including two United States Navy aircraft carrier task forces, another task force led by the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, a landing by U.S. Marines on the Caribbean coast, a combined field training exercise of Honduran units and U.S. Army Special Forces in a counterinsurgency exercises in a remote area of Honduras, and a combined artillery exercise of the division artillery from the 101st Airborne Division and the Honduran army.

     With such a large force dedicated military police functions also had to be provided. The 720th MP Battalion detachment assigned included the 401st MP Company, under the command of CPT Charles Bradley, several members of the 410th MP Company, LEA (Law Enforcement Activities) members consisting of Provost Marshall Investigators and a Criminal Investigations Division agent were assigned as security, primarily for engineering units.

     The detachment initially flew into San Pedro Sula and convoyed to Camayagua-Palmerola Air Force Base where they relieved a U.S. Army MP detachment from Panama, and were essentially the first combat support unit in the area. They supported a JTF (Joint Task Force) under the 41st Support Command from Fort Carson, Colorado. They immediately established military police operations to include Provost Marshals Office, supported U.S. engineer elements as they constructed facilities throughout the country, and in addition also provided air mission support with the 101st Aviation Battalion (101st Airborne, Fort Campbell, KY), military law enforcement duties throughout the areas most frequented by U.S. troops, training of Policia Militar (Honduran MPs) as well as civilian law enforcement, the FUSEP or Fuerza de Seguridad Pública (Public Safety Force, Honduras). They also provided convoy security for arriving troops and material, border security against Sandanista insurgents from Nicaragua, physical security at Palmerola Air Force Base and joint U.S. / Honduran law enforcement operations in Comayagua in conjunction with civilian and military locals.

     Their downtown MP Desk in Comayagua, an impoverished town of 30,000 people, was unique and offered many advantages to the U.S. troops on leave or pass. It was co-located with the FUSEP (Honduran Civil Police) one block north of the main square. The desk was manned from Sunday through Thursday 1300 to 1600 Hours (1:00 to 4:00PM), by a Spanish-speaking member of the 401st MP Company. On Friday and Saturday nights, it provided three jeep and one foot patrol that crisscrossed the town to assist U.S. service members. Each downtown patrol was staffed by a U.S. MP and FUERZA PM (Honduran Military Policeman) from Palmerola Air Base.
     With the influx of over 1,200 U.S. troops swelling the billets at Palmerola Air Base, the locals began constructing new commercial establishments to service them. The new American oriented businesses, mostly bars and restaurants with names like- Restaurant Texas and Xenon Disco Bar, provided plenty of distraction for the off duty troops. The underground economy, consisting of the town’s red light district was also booming. In all, the sudden growth provided the military police mission with plenty to keep it busy.
     A special thank you goes out to CPL Howard P. Starr, II of the 401st MP Company for his information and document contributions to this page.
Photograph Index
 PFC Michael Orr, 411th MP Company working at the main gate to Palmerola Air Base.
 PFC John M. Baker, 401st MP Company on night patol in Comayagua.
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