“Nicaragua is waging three wars in Central America. Right now there are guerrilla movements in Nicaragua which are waging war in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras” Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), House floor, June 27, 1985
“The (Nicaraguan) Sandinista regime has been waging war against its neighbors since August of 1979. This has included military raids into Honduras and Costa Rica which still continue today” President Ronald Reagan, May 9, 1984, address to Nation
NEW UPDATE (2023) – The VFW has voted to support our mission (see below)
Central America War 1979 – 1992
USContraWar is published for all U.S. military members deployed to Honduras and Central America (C.A.) from October 1, 1979 to February 1, 1992, their families and others interested in what U.S. troops were actually doing during the Central America War which includes; the defense of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979 – 1990) and the correlated Contra War (1980 – 1990), the El Salvadoran civil war (1981 – 1992), the Grenada Rescue Urgent Fury (1983), the Panama Invasion Just Cause (1989 – 1990) and significant terrorist attacks, guerrilla / insurgent war activity throughout Central America.
USContraWar is advocating for conflict recognition in the form of an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) or Central America Campaign Medal (CACM) and the National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) by the United States Government for service during the decade that ended communist advances into the Western Hemisphere allowing democracy to flourish in Central America.
At USContraWar you will find extensive information regarding military and terrorist attacks against U.S. troops, citizens and assets in Honduras and throughout the isthmus during the Central America War.
The main goal of USContraWar is to petition the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch to issue an AFEM or CACM, the NDSM, and other combat recognitions for U.S. troops who served in Honduras and Central America during the war ultimately leading to the creation and issuance of the Central America Campaign Medal. Additionally, establish accurate databases of U.S. casualties that occurred and instances where U.S. troops in Honduras and Central America were subjected to hostile fire, explosive devices or conducted offensive operations against the enemy.
The proper classification and accurate disclosure of all Americans killed and wounded during the C.A. War remains our top priority.
U.S. military members who deployed to Honduras during the C. A. War do not have these deployments or related awards listed in their official military records.
— QUICK FACTS —
The Executive Branch declared a National Emergency against Nicaraguan on May 1, 1985 which lasted until March 17, 1990 after democratic elections were held in Nicaragua ending that threat to U.S. national security. Other related threats existed from 1979 to 1992. DOD issued Hostile Fire Pay to U.S. military members serving in El Salvador beginning on October 1, 1979.
At least seventy U.S. military members were killed in Honduras or were based in Honduras during the war-which is more U.S. casualties then the Panama Invasion, the Grenada Rescue and El Salvadoran civil war-combined. The Honduras portion of the C.A. War remains the only conflict not recognized by the U.S. Government as a combat zone, therefore no AFEM or NDSM have been issued. Several dozen more U.S. troops were wounded, in Honduras, during attacks by terrorists and foreign military forces operating inside Honduras. In comparison, the Bosnia / Kosovo Campaign has one hostile death yet all who deployed received proper recognitions.
CWO2 JEFFRY SCHWAB was killed on January 11, 1984 by Nicaraguan government troops after his helicopter was shot down, followed by additional small arms fire when he was fatally struck in the head by a round. The Nicaraguan government claimed that they shot his helicopter down over Nicaraguan air space. The U.S. Government claimed they were flying over Honduran air space when they were shot down. Two other U.S. troops escaped, apparently without injuries. Upon rescue attempts of the two survivors, U.S. troops allegedly came under additional hostile fire. This is the only listed Honduran based American military casualty the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged AS RELATED TO THE CONFLICT and the incident is listed as a terrorist act during peace time. Nicaraguan troops were not part of a terrorist organization or group. Jeff Schwab’s Purple Heart reads “FOR WOUNDS RECEIVED IN ACTION IN HONDURAS ON 11 JANUARY 1984 WHICH RESULTED IN DEATH.” Jeff saved the lives of his two passengers and has not been posthumously awarded a combat award for valor. Central Command’s CINC General Paul Gorman’s letter to Schwab’s widow reads in part, “Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey C. Schwab, whose cool courage under fire, and skilled airmanship saved the lives of his passengers.” (letter dated 30 January 1984).
Of the twenty-two U.S. military members killed in El Salvador during the war, as many as twelve were based in Honduras including members of the 228th Aviation Regiment LTC David Pickett, CWO4 Daniel Scott and SP4 Earnest Dawson. Their helicopter was shot down on January 2, 1991 by communist guerrillas near Lolotique, El Salvador on the return leg of a round-trip flight from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras to San Salvador, El Salvador. Scott was killed while piloting the helicopter. LTC Pickett and PFC Dawson survived the crash, were captured by the enemy and later executed as wounded Prisoners of War. Both LTC Pickett and SP4 Dawson were posthumously awarded the POW medal.
These two incidents alone establish that regular military conventional U.S. combat forces, based in Honduras, were conducting combat missions in support of the Central America War. As with the Bosnia / Kosovo low intensity conflict with one hostile death, all U.S. service members who deployed to Honduras should have their service records updated with proper combat recognitions and listed deployments.
NEW UPDATE – The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) agrees! In July 2023, during its annual national convention in Phoenix, the VFW voted to adopt Resolution 419 – Honduras in support of our efforts. THANK YOU! see below…
[Resolution No. 419. HONDURAS
WHEREAS, the vision of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States is to, “Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country;” and
WHEREAS, the VFW believes all military members and veterans who serve or have served in hostile environments should be appropriately recognized; and
WHEREAS, the United States (U.S.) military maintained a presence in Honduras throughout and beyond the 1980s providing training to and conducting military exercises with the host nation military; and
WHEREAS, the buildup and presence of U.S. troops served as a deterrent to Nicaraguan aggression in the region and also a means of building support for democratic values via civil action in Honduran communities; and
WHEREAS, U.S. troops were equipped with live ammunition and assisted the Honduran military in training and combat support capacities; and
WHEREAS, U.S. troops reported experiencing hostile fire and imminent danger; and
WHEREAS, at least one U.S. service member received a Purple Heart because of terrorist activity; and
WHEREAS, U.S. troops lost their lives while conducting various duties due to terrorist activity and other hazardous circumstances; now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, that we strongly urge Congress to issue an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, or similar recognition of having served in an area of hostility, to all U.S. troops who served in Honduras from 1981 to 1992.
Submitted by Commander-in-Chief
To Committee on NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS by the 124th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.]
*Please support the VFW’s mission by contacting your local Congressional Representatives and requesting that they support VFW Res. 419 Honduras.
During the Central America War, more than 300 U.S. troops were killed in the extended theatre of operation.
Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of the Central America War.
Over 200 documented military and terrorist attacks occurred above or on Honduran territory during the Central America War; many by Nicaraguan communist government troops and El Salvadoran leftist guerrilla forces directed against American troops while operating in a combat role and equipped for combat in Honduras. Hundreds of attacks remain undocumented or secret.
More than 300,000 U.S. troops, many equipped for combat with ammunition, were deployed to Honduras during the Central America War to protect U.S. interests and conduct military operations. There was no formal treaty or Congressional mandate authorizing the deployments of U.S. troops equipped for combat to Honduras, therefore, no Congressional combat recognition.
During these Executive Branch declared ‘training and war games’ where no combat occurred according to the Pentagon, at least forty-two Purple Hearts were issued to U.S. troops serving in Honduras during the C.A. War period, yet 70 were killed and many dozens more were wounded by hostile fire and explosive devices. For example, on July 13, 1989 in La Cieba, seven Military Policemen of the 549th MP Company, from Panama, were wounded when a bomb was thrown at them while they were crossing a bridge. The MP’s were based out of Palmerola (renamed Soto Cano) Air Base protecting engineers who were on a road building project called Fuertes Caminos. No Purple Hearts were awarded to these seven MP’s wounded during this attack.
Many documented and countless more undocumented U.S. troops were subjected to hostile fire, explosive devices and imminent danger yet have not received proper combat honors and recognition by the United States Government.
The U.S. Pentagon maintains that U.S. troops deployed to Honduras from 1981 to 1992 were safe; were only training and conducting war games. Furthermore, the U.S. Government maintains that Honduras was a noncombat area and those U.S. military members deployed under Temporary Duty (TDY) orders do not qualify for combat medals and ribbons according to the U.S. Army Awards and Decorations Branch. Since the Executive Branch proclaimed that Honduras was safe for training, that members were only conducting war games, that no U.S. military members deployed to Honduras participated in combat or combat support missions; those military members deployed to Honduras are not authorized combat medals.
In May, 1996, President Clinton signed the National Defense Authorization Act issuing Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals to some 5,000 U.S. troops who served in El Salvador during that portion of the C.A. War where, twenty-two U.S. troops were killed. During the same period of the El Salvadoran civil war, sixty-three U.S. troops were killed in Honduras serving during the war. At least twelve of the twenty-two killed in El Salvador were actually based in Honduras and were sent from Honduras to support combat missions in El Salvador proving a Direct Combat Role of U.S. troops based in Honduras.
How can you help?
Please help us advocate for recognition as Veterans of this Low-Intensity Conflict by sending a letter to your U.S. Congress or Senate representative in support of our mission by asking Congress to issue an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal to all U.S. troops who served in Honduras from 1981 to 1992. This will help the veterans and families of the killed and wounded, those veterans attempting to receive proper combat honors and recognition for their sacrifices during the decade that ended Soviet communism. Support VFW Res. 419!
WAR? LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT? IMMINENT DANGER AREA?
TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE WHAT YOU THINK!