The Battle of Mogadishu, also known as the Black Hawk Down incident and in Somali as Maalintii Rangers ('Day of the Rangers'), was a significant conflict during Operation Gothic Serpent. It took place on 3-4 October 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, and saw United States forces, under the support of UNOSOM II, engage with the Somali National Alliance (SNA) and local militia from southern Mogadishu.

In 1992, the U.S., in partnership with the U.N., launched a humanitarian mission to address the severe famine in Somalia. This effort quickly escalated into a conflict when militias under Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid began assaulting and killing U.N. peacekeepers. Consequently, the mission, renamed Operation Gothic Serpent, redirected Task Force Ranger to prioritize the capture of Aidid and his chief lieutenants.

Photo at right: Mogadishu, Somalia. 3 October 1993. Operation Code Irene: the Battle of Mogadishu. Members (along the walls and building) of Task Force Ranger under fire in Somalia. U.S. Army Rangers Photo. Source: Wikimedia. In the Public Domain. Click to enlarge.

The conflict was a continuation of the Somali Civil War, which had resulted in extensive disorder and starvation. The United Nations initially deployed troops to mitigate the famine of 1992, later shifting focus towards establishing democracy and reinstating a central government. In June 1993, U.N. forces experienced their most lethal day in years when the Pakistani brigade was ambushed at an SNA arms depot, an attack attributed to SNA head Mohamed Farrah Aidid, sparking a pursuit.

In July 1993, American troops conducted a raid on the Abdi House in Mogadishu to locate Aidid, leading to the loss of numerous elders and notable figures from Aidid's Habr Gidr clan. This action amplified the local opposition to UNOSOM II. By August, Aidid's faction started to directly engage American forces, leading President Bill Clinton to deploy Task Force Ranger with the objective of apprehending Aidid.

On 3 October 1993, U.S. forces initiated a mission to capture two of Aidid's senior lieutenants during a city meeting. The operation included 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and around 160 troops. It was supposed to last just an hour but escalated into an overnight standoff and rescue mission that continued into the following day.

Around 1620hrs., a Black Hawk helicopter, Super 61, flown by CW3 Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott and CW3 Donovan “Bull” Briley, was downed by an RPG-7. Both pilots perished, and two crew chiefs were critically injured. Although the mission's goal was met, the fall of Super 61 initiated a fierce ground battle. Staff Sergeants Daniel Busch and Jim Smith, both Special Operations snipers, survived the crash and began defending the site without delay. Nearby, an MH-6 helicopter, Star 41, piloted by CW3 Karl Maier and CW5 Keith Jones, made a landing. Jones exited the helicopter and transported Busch to safety as Maier delivered cover fire from the cockpit, defying several orders to take off without his co-pilot. Despite the orders, Jones and Maier managed to evacuate both Busch and Smith. Sadly, Busch later passed away from his injuries sustained from defending the crash site, after being shot four times.

During the rescue efforts for Super 61, there were communication breakdowns between the ground convoy and the assault team, resulting in confusion over who was to initiate contact. In the midst of this twenty-minute miscommunication, another Black Hawk helicopter, designated Super 64 and flown by Michael Durant, was brought down by an RPG-7 at approximately 4:40 pm. The majority of the assault team regrouped at the first crash site, where around 90 Rangers and Special Forces operators were besieged by intense enemy fire. Despite aerial support, they were encircled for the night. At the second crash site, two snipers, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart, offered to protect the wreckage. After repeated requests, they were eventually authorized to proceed. They caused substantial losses to the encroaching Somali militia. When their support helicopter, Super 62, was hit by an RPG, it managed a safe landing at New Port.

12701680267?profile=RESIZE_584xUltimately, Gordon was killed. Shughart retrieved Gordon's weapon and gave it to Durant, then went back to the helicopter's front to hold off the attackers for about ten more minutes before he too was killed. The Somali assailants subsequently overwhelmed the crash site, killing everyone except Durant, who, despite being severely beaten, was spared when Aidid's militia members stepped in to capture him. For their exceptional valor, MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, marking the first such honors since the Vietnam War.

Photo at right: Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina. The rotor from Black Hawk Down helicopter Super 61. In the Public Domain. Click to enlarge.

In the morning, a UNOSOM II armored convoy battled to reach the encircled soldiers, enduring additional losses but ultimately rescuing the survivors. The casualties amounted to 18 American soldiers killed, 73 injured, one Malaysian fatality, and seven wounded. Pakistani forces sustained two injuries. Somali casualties were considerably higher, with estimates ranging from 133 to 700 fatalities. Following the conflict, the bodies of American soldiers were paraded through the streets of Mogadishu, an event televised in the United States that stunned the populace. This incident precipitated the eventual withdrawal of U.N. forces in 1995.



"The Battle of Mogadishu." U.S. Army Army & Special Operations Museum. Last modified September 22, 2021. https://www.asomf.org/the-battle-of-mogadishu/.

Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2010.

Durant, Michael J., and Steven Hartov. In the Company of Heroes: The Personal Story Behind Black Hawk Down. London: Penguin, 2004.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) History Department. "'Based on an Actual Event': The Battle of Mogadishu in Popular Culture." Homepage of the U.S. Army Special Operations History Office. Accessed July 4, 2024. https://arsof-history.org/articles/23sept_based_on_an_actual_event_page_1.html.



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