On 3 October 1993, the men of Task Force Ranger launched an operation to capture two key associates of Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the capital city of Mogadishu. The raid was to be short, lasting no longer than an hour. Instead, a brutal firefight would erupt, resulting in the loss of two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, 18 American soldiers, and over 500 Somali fighters and civilians. Known by the Somali’s as the Day of the Rangers, the action would later be popularized in both a book and film, aptly named “Blackhawk Down.”
Task Force Ranger deployed to Somalia on 22 August 1993, following the increased violence against the US and UN forces performing peacekeeping missions. Dubbed Operation Gothic Serpent, the special operation soldier’s mission was to capture Aidid. On the afternoon of 3 October, intelligence analysts with Task Force Ranger received information regarding the location of two of Aidid’s top aides. They were located in downtown Mogadishu near the Olympic Hotel. With the raid authorized, 19 vehicles and 12 aircraft carrying 160 special operation soldiers were sent into the city to capture the two aides.
The mission called for the Rangers (Bravo Company, 3/75th Ranger Battalion) to secure the outlying area around the target building, while members of the 1st SFOD-D (popularly known as Delta Force) would assault the building, capturing the two high-value targets. The operation began at 3:32 p.m., and within minutes the members of Task Force Ranger were at the target location. Tragedy struck when one of the Rangers, PFC Todd Blackburn, was injured while fast-roping to the ground. Severely wounded, Blackburn would be the first American casualty of the day. After capturing the targeted individuals, the members of Task Force Ranger began preparations to return to their forward operating base (FOB) at the Mogadishu airport.
Matters soon turned dire for the soldiers when one of the Blackhawks, Super 6-1, was shot down by Somali militants. The mission soon shifted to search and recovery for the lost crewmen in the downed helicopter. Twenty minutes after the loss of Super 6-1, a second Blackhawk, Super 6-4, was shot down. Two Delta Force snipers, SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon, volunteered to assist in protecting the down crewmen. As the members of Task Force Ranger moved to aid in the recovery, they soon found themselves cut-off and surrounded in the city. The battle lasted throughout the night and into the next morning, before additional UN and US forces were able to assist in withdrawing the remaining elements of Task Force Ranger.
In total, 18 Americans were killed in action during the battle, with 73 wounded and one pilot captured (CW3 Michael Durant). Shughart and Gordon were killed in action defending Durant at the crash site of Super 6-4 and were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Durant would remain in captivity for 11 days before being released back to the United States. Following the Battle of Mogadishu, public outcry in the US led to President Clinton to withdraw troops from Somalia and reduce its support of UN operations in the region.
Look for more information regarding American involvement in Somalia in the future Modern War issue #25 with the article “Before Blackhawk Down: 10th Mountain Division in Somalia” and join the conversation on Facebook!