Former drug-toting, ally-turned-enemy dictator Manuel Noriega died on Monday. He was 83.
Over two decades ago, in December of 1989, the United States military invaded Panama — the nation of his reign — and cornered him. While he burrowed a last resort hiding place at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, American forces devised a noisy plan to get him the hell out of there — minus the use of conventional weapons.
Enter K.C. And The Sunshine Band. Enter Alice Cooper. Enter Black Sabbath. And yes, even Axl Rose.
The U.S. service members — through the power of U.S. military radio for Central America — devised a playlist (this one) to whittle away at Noriega’s patience, and get him to surrender.
But, before it worked, it got … festive. On Christmas Day, Christmas music was blared.
Then, a high-ranking commander turned the volume up.
This from NPR:
U.S. Gen. Maxwell “Mad Max” Thurman had ordered speakers placed as a “musical barrier” around the perimeter of the Vatican Embassy and turned to full volume.
Noriega was reportedly partial to opera. What he got was “Panama,” from Van Halen, “Danger Zone,” from Kenny Loggins, and “Refugee,” courtesy of Tom Petty.
And remember, this was the ’80s. So the strongman also got an earful of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” though that may have been intended more for Noriega’s hosts at the embassy.
Apparently several members of George H.W. Bush’s White House staff (who were also fielding complaints from the Vatican) weren’t keen on the idea of blasting tunes in the face of the tyrannical kingpin, and the plug was pulled several days before he surrendered to U.S. forces on January 3, 1990.