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CHAMBERSBURG – Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, 83, who died Monday in Panama, had a connection to Franklin County, even though there is no record of him ever actually setting foot in the area.
Today a mystery surrounds a collection of more than 51,000 weapons and munitions that were stored at Letterkenny Army Depot after Noriega was deposed during an invasion of Panama in December 1989.
Almost 28 years later, Letterkenny has no record of the final disposition of Noriega’s weapons, or display cases once kept at the depot that were filled with guns that appeared to be “one of a kind” collector’s items with gold etchings and inlays.
Letterkenny Public Affairs Officer Janet Gardner confirmed that the weapons and munitions, as well as artillery and two armored vehicles, were brought to the depot for processing in early 1990.
The depot had been selected as the single processing and storage location for more than 51,000 items confiscated in the invasion. The vast majority of the items were small weapons and ammunition, Gardner said.
Some of those items included a collection of expensive, custom-made guns that might have been part of the dictator/drug trafficker’s personal collection, according to some retired Letterkenny employees who once saw them.
Sam Horton remembers seeing display cases of those confiscated “one of a kind” firearms back when he was working at the depot.