'Cocaine is a nuclear bomb I'm going to drop on America.'

Carlos Lehder, Medellín Cartel

Duration: 52 years, and counting
Executive Orders & Congressional Acts: 42
Theaters: 5 continents, 60 countries
Operations: 1,000+
Veterans Served: 250,000+
Veteran Casualties: 5,000+
Overdose Casualties: 1,000,000+
Taxpayer Cost: $1,000,000,000,000+
Money Seizures: $5,000,000,000+
Drug Seizures: $175,000,000,000+
Traffickers Eliminated: 125,000+
Kingpins & Cartels Eliminated: 50+

Major Military Events

— Nixon Era —

Declaration of War
18 June 1971

USCGC Dauntless intercepts fishing vessel "Big L" with 1,512 pounds of marijuana.
The First Engagement
9 March 1973

— Ford Era —

'We have won important victories, but we have not won the War on Drugs...Drugs constitute a clear and present threat to the health and future of our Nation. The time has come to launch a new and more aggressive campaign to reverse the trend of increasing drug abuse in America...The first need for stronger action is against the criminal drug trafficker. These merchants of death, who profit from the misery and suffering of others, deserve the full measure of national revulsion.'

Executive Congressional Message 368
27 April 1976

USCGC Diligence intercepts vessel "Taurus" with 8,600 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
27 August 1974

USCGC Dauntless intercepts vessel "Royano" with 6,300 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
29 March 1975

USCGC Sherman intercepts vessel "Don Emilio" with 69,793 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
15 October 1976

USCGC Dauntless intercepts ghost ship "Night Train" with 104,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
1 February 1977

— Carter Era —

'Drug abuse continues to be a serious social problem in America. The Federal Government's job is to deter and prevent illegal importation and major trafficking of controlled substances...Today I am signing into law H.R. 2538, a bill which will improve the Coast Guard's ability to enforce laws aimed at stopping illegal drug trafficking on the high seas. This legislation makes it a crime to possess or distribute drugs on the high seas and applies to all United States citizens, to all persons aboard any United States vessel regardless of their nationality, to individuals who intend to unlawfully import a controlled substance into the United States, and to all persons aboard vessels within the 12-mile territorial limits.'

H.R. 2538 Signing
15 September 1980

USCGC Courageous intercepts vessel "Calabres" with 240,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
27 February 1977

USCGC Sagebrush intercepts vessel "Heidi" with 225,300 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
8 August 1978

USCGC Gull intercepts vessel "Captain John Bolden" with 2,937,000 quaaludes and 7,500 lbs of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
2 October 1979

USCGC Acushnet intercepts vessel "Dr. Jack" with 150,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
29 December 1980

USCGC Courageous intercepts vessel "Hermigua" with 400,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Stopgap
4 February 1981

— Reagan Era —

'We must mobilize all our forces to stop the flow of drugs into this country. We're running up a battle flag. We can fight the drug problem, and we can win...The international drug trade threatens the national security of the United States...It is therefore the policy of the United States to halt the production and flow of illicit narcotics, reduce the ability of insurgent and terrorist groups to use drug trafficking to support their activities, and strengthen the ability of individual governments to confront and defeat this threat...The Secretary of Defense should develop and implement any necessary modifications to applicable statutes, regulations, procedures, and guidelines to enable U.S. military forces to support counter-narcotics efforts more actively...'

Executive Order NSD 221
8 April 1986

USCGC Valiant intercepts vessel "Frances Anne" with 2,461,000 quaaludes and 21,440 lbs of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
3 August 1981

USCGC Duane intercepts vessel "BP-25" with 200,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
27 May 1982

USCGC Knox intercepts vessel "Northern Lights" with 111,600 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
13 November 1983

USCGC Gallatin intercepts vessel "Chinook" with 1,895 pounds of cocaine.
First Major Cocaine Bust
2 April 1984

USS Hercules intercepts vessel "Mar Antil" with 70,950 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
23 November 1984

Medellín Campaign
March 1984 — December 1993
Operations BAT, Agate Path, Chemcon, Snowcap, Centra Spike, Heavy Shadow, Millennium

'Cocaine is a nuclear bomb I'm going to drop on America.'
Carlos Lehder

'I would rather have a grave in Colombia than a jail cell in America.'
Pablo Escobar

USCGC Taney intercepts vessel "Guzzetta" with 164,469 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
4 October 1985

USS McCloy intercepts vessel "Sea Wanderer" with 98,325 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
20 November 1986

USCGC Bear intercepts vessel "Don Julio" with 13 lbs of cocaine and 176,400 lbs of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
3 June 1987

USCGC Boutwell intercepts vessel "Encounter Bay" with 143,000 pounds of marijuana.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tiburon
1 July 1988

— H.W. Bush Era —

'An update on America's war against drug abuse: First, let me say it is a real war. This isn't a headline writer's hype of some sort. The poison of drug abuse and the violence it breeds have left a trail of death and destruction in our cities. And anyone who lives in a big city knows of places close to home that look like war zones. We haven't won this war yet, but I'm determined that we will...The Secretary of Defense shall revise Department of Defense policy directives and procedures to expand support of U.S. counternarcotics efforts and to permit personnel to conduct training for host government personnel and operational support activities anywhere in the Andean region.'

Executive Order NSD 18
21 August 1989

USCGC Cushing intercepts vessel "Zedom Sea" with 12,207 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Hourglass
2 October 1989

Noriega Campaign
September 1987 — September 1994
Operations Bushmaster, Sand Flea, Acid Gambit, Just Cause, Nifty Package, Promote Liberty

'The biggest drug bust in history.'
Deane Hinton, US Ambassador

  • 'What do they want, to spill blood here?
    There will be Panamanian blood, but
    also American blood. This machete
    says not one step back!'
    26 March 1988
  • 'We're in trench warfare now and
    we will maintain the resistance. We
    must resist and advance. Our
    slogan is to win or die!'
    21 December 1989
  • 'I am General Noriega and I
    am surrendering to U.S. forces.'
    3 January 1990

USCGC Harriet Lane intercepts vessel with 4,364 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Hourglass
24 April 1990

USS Ingersoll intercepts vessel "Lucky Star" with 140,260 pounds of hashish.
Bust of the Year, Operation Top Spin
12 July 1991

USCGC Campbell intercepts vessel "Harbor" with 10,422 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Hourglass
6 January 1992

— Clinton Era —

'The scourge of illegal narcotics is severely damaging the social fabric of our society and those of many other nations, including those where the drugs are grown and processed. Thus, the United States will treat as a serious national security threat the operations of international criminal narcotics syndicates, requiring an extraordinary and coordinated response by civilian and military agencies engaged in national security. We will act unilaterally and in concert with other nations to implement an international strategy that is fully integrated into our overall national drug strategy. We must provide leadership, moral and financial support and material technical assistance to states that have the political will to confront this serious threat to democracy, safety and health.'

Executive Order NSD 14
3 November 1993

USS Cleveland, USS Valley Forge & LEDET intercept vessel "Sea Chariot" with 11,233 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Emerald
28 April 1993

USS Cape St. George & LEDET intercept vessel "Nataly I" with 24,325 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Caper Focus
25 July 1995

— W. Bush Era —

'A goal of my administration and a goal of this Nation, is to wage a war on drug abuse...Narcotics trafficking constitutes a serious threat to the health of individuals and international security. The drug trade is one of the principle sources of financial support for terrorism...The United States and Afghanistan plan to work together in the war against terror and to remain steadfast in supporting Afghanistan's campaign to eradicate poppy cultivation, provide alternate livelihoods assistance, and fight the production and trafficking of drugs.'

Joint Declaration
23 May 2005

USS Rodney Davis, USCGC Active & LEDET intercept vessel "Svesda Maru" with 26,931 lbs of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Panama Express
28 April 2001

USS Curts, USS Crommelin & LEDET 105 intercept vessels "Lina Maria" and "San Jose" with 55,040 lbs of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Panama Express
17 September 2004

29,000 National Guardsmen seize 321,000 pounds of cocaine and marijuana on Southern US border.
Sinaloa/Tijuana/Gulf Campaign, Operation Jump Start
May 2006 — July 2008

USCGC Monsoon & USCGC Boutwell arrest Kingpin El Tigrillo.
Tijuana Campaign, Operation Shadow Game
14 August 2006

USCGC Steadfast intercepts the first semi-submarine, dubbed "Bigfoot", with 6,000 pounds of cocaine.
A New Chapter Begins
17 November 2006

USCGC Sherman & USCGC Hamilton intercept the vessel "Gatun" with 37,845 pounds of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Steel Web
18 March 2007

Helmand Campaign
March 2007 — Present

'They had no idea we were going to land that far South. They weren’t prepared for us.'
Helmand Campaign, Operation Azada Wosa
March — August 2008

3rd Special Forces Group (Green Berets) destroy 524,000 pounds of Taliban hashish.
Bust of the Year, Operation Albatross
9 June 2008

USS McInerney & LEDET 404 intercept semi-submarine (in tow) with 14,000 lbs of cocaine.
Maritime Bust of the Year, Operation Steel Web
13 September 2008

— Obama Era —

'My administration has completed a comprehensive assessment of transnational organized crime, the first since 1995...29 of the 63 top drug trafficking organizations identified by the Department of Justice have links to terrorist organizations...I'm not interested in militarizing the border...I'm not interested in militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking. This is a law enforcement problem.'

Strategy to Combat TOC
25 July 2011

Task Force Leatherneck seizes 270,000 pounds of poppy seed and 130,000 pounds of fertilizer.
Bust of the Year, Helmand Campaign, Operation Khanjar
July — August 2009

'The bleeding ulcer'
2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade & 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade seize 184,000 pounds of opium.
Bust of the Year, Helmand Campaign, Operation Moshtarak
February — March 2010

1st Battalion, 6th Marines arrest Kingpin Haji Mohammad.
Helmand Campaign, Operation Moshtarak
18 May 2010

'We had over a hundred firefights in the first three weeks. This is what we had trained for.'
Helmand Campaign, Operation Golden Shillelagh
October 2010 — April 2011

Helmand Campaign, Operation Eastern Storm
October 2011 — April 2012

38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade seizes 35,000 lbs of ammonium chloride.
Bust of the Year, Operation Pranoo Verbena
9 May 2012

USCGC Stratton intercepts semi-submarine with 16,000 pounds of cocaine; seizes 12k before sinking.
Bust of the Year, Operation Martillo
17 July 2015

Sinaloa Campaign
January 1994 — Present
Operations Jump Start, Community Shield, Sinaloa, Xcellerator, Gargoyle, Black Swan

1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force) & Infantería de Marina arrest Kingpin El Chapo.
Operation Black Swan
8 January 2016

'I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana than anybody in the world.'
El Chapo

3rd Special Forces Group (Green Berets) seize a Hadimama lab with 40,000 lbs of heroin.
Bust of the Year, Operation Tar Pit
17 October 2016

Big Week, Operation Martillo
August 2016

— Trump Era —

'Transnational criminal organizations, including transnational drug cartels, have spread throughout the Nation, threatening the safety of the United States and its citizens...Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death...This is a total epidemic, and I think it's the least talked about compared to the severity that we're witnessing...we want to battle drug addiction. We're going to be ruthless in that fight. And we're going to take that fight to the drug cartels.'

Executive Order 13773
9 February 2017

USCGC Napier intercepts vessel "Lady Michelle" with 8,400 lbs of cocaine.
Bust of the Year, Operation Caribbean Guard
17 February 2017

9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force kill Kingpin & Warlord Mullah Shah Wali.
Helmand Campaign, Operation Jagged Knife
1 Dec 2017

Full might of the United States Air Force; largest bombing offensive in War on Drugs history.
B1, B52, F16, F18, F22, A10, MQ9 and the M142 destroyed 188 drug labs.
Helmand Campaign, Operation Jagged Knife / Iron Tempest
November 2017 — February 2019

— Biden Era —

'Trafficking into the United States of illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses with their own tragic human toll. Drug cartels, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators are the primary sources of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals that fuel the current opioid epidemic, as well as drug-related violence that harms our communities. I find that international drug trafficking — including the illicit production, global sale, and widespread distribution of illegal drugs; the rise of extremely potent drugs such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids; as well as the growing role of Internet-based drug sales — constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States…It is the policy of the United States to employ authorized intelligence and operational capabilities in an integrated manner to target, disrupt, and degrade transnational criminal organizations that pose the greatest threat to national security….The United States Council on Transnational Organized Crime shall consist of the following members or their designees…Secretary of Defense.'

Executive Order 14060
15 December 2021

The War on Drugs is ongoing and predominantly covert.
This page will be updated as declassification continues.

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