Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
The Battle of Mogadishu, more commonly referred to as Black Hawk Down or, locally, as theDay of the Rangers (Somali: Maalintii Rangers), was part of Operation Gothic Serpent and was fought on 3 and 4 October 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, between forces of the United Statessupported by UNOSOM II, and Somali militiamen loyal to the self-proclaimed president-to-beMohamed Farrah Aidid who had support from armed civilian fighters.
A U.S. Army force in Mogadishu, consisting primarily of U.S. Army Rangers from Bravo Company,3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), better known as “Delta Force“; as well as Air Force Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen and helicopters from 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, attempted to seize two of Aidid’s high-echelon lieutenants during a meeting in the city. Shortly after the assault began, Somali militia and armed civilian fighters managed to shoot down two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The subsequent rescue operation to secure and recover the crews of both helicopters drew the raid, intended to last no more than an hour, into an overnight standoff in the city. The battle resulted in 18 deaths, 80 wounded, and one helicopter pilot captured among the U.S. raid party and rescue forces. One Pakistani soldier and one Malaysian soldier were killed as part of the rescue forces. American sources estimate between 1,500 and 3,000 Somali casualties, including civilians; SNA forces claim only 315 killed, with 812 wounded. The battle is now referred to as the First Battle of Mogadishu to distinguish it from the Second Battle of Mogadishu of 2006.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Background
- 3 Order of Battle
- 4 Engagement
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 Published accounts
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Task Force Ranger—which consisted of an assault force made up of U.S. Army Delta Forceoperators, Army Rangers, Air Force Pararescuemen, Air Force Combat Controllers, four Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and an air element provided by the160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment—under Major General William F. Garrison‘s command executed an operation that involved traveling from their compound on the city’s outskirts to the center with the aim of capturing the leaders of theHabr Gidr clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The assault force consisted of nineteen aircraft, twelve vehicles (including nine Humvees), and 160 men.
During the operation, two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by RPGs and three others were damaged. Some of the wounded survivors were able to evacuate to the compound, but others remained near the crash sites and were isolated. An urban battle ensued throughout the night.
Early the next morning, a combined task force was sent to rescue the trapped soldiers. It contained soldiers from the Pakistan Army, the Malaysian Army and the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. They assembled some hundred vehicles, including Pakistani tanks (M48s) and Malaysian Condor armoured personnel carriers and were supported by U.S. MH-6 Little Bird and MH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. This task force reached the first crash site and rescued the survivors. The second crash site had been overrun by hostile Somalis during the night. Delta snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart volunteered to hold them off until ground forces arrived. A Somali mob with thousands of combatants eventually overran the two men. That site’s lone surviving American, pilot Michael Durant, had been taken prisoner but was later released.
The exact number of Somali casualties is unknown, but estimates range from several hundred to over a thousand militiamen and others killed, with injuries to another 3,000–4,000. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated 200 Somali civilians killed and several hundred wounded in the fighting, with reports that some civilians attacked the Americans. The book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War estimates more than 700 Somali militiamen dead and more than 1,000 wounded, but the Somali National Alliance in a Frontline documentary on American television acknowledged only 133 killed in the whole battle. The Somali casualties were reported in The Washington Post as 312 killed and 814 wounded. The Pentagon initially reported five American soldiers were killed, but the toll was actually 18 American soldiers dead and 73 wounded. Two days later, a 19th soldier, Delta operator SFC Matt Rierson, was killed in a mortar attack. Among U.N. forces, one Malaysian and one Pakistani died; seven Malaysians and two Pakistanis were wounded. At the time, the battle was the bloodiest involving U.S. troops since the Vietnam Warand remained so until the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
On 24 July 1996, Aidid was wounded during a firefight between his militia and forces loyal to warlords and former Aidid allies, Ali Mahdi Muhammad andOsman Ali Atto. He suffered a fatal heart attack on 1 August 1996, either during or after surgery to treat his wounds. The following day, General Garrison retired.
In January 1991, Somalian president Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in the ensuing civil war by a coalition of opposing clans. The Somali National Army concurrently disbanded and some former soldiers reconstituted as irregular regional forces or joined the clan militias. The main rebel group in the capital Mogadishu was theUnited Somali Congress (USC), which later divided into two armed factions: one led by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who became president, and the other by Mohamed Farrah Aidid. In total, there were four opposition groups that competed for political control – the USC, Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), Somali Patriotic Movement(SPM) and Somali Democratic Movement (SDM). In June 1991, a ceasefire was agreed to, but failed to hold. A fifth group, the Somali National Movement (SNM), later declared independence in the Somalia’s northwest portion in June. The SNM renamed the unrecognized territory Somaliland, with its leader Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuurselected as president.
In September 1991, severe fighting broke out in Mogadishu, which continued in the following months and spread throughout the country, with over 20,000 people killed or injured by the end of the year. These wars led to the destruction of the Somalia’s agriculture, which in turn led to starvation in large parts of the country. Theinternational community began to send food supplies to halt the starvation, but vast amounts of food were hijacked and brought to local clan leaders, who routinely exchanged it with other countries for weapons. An estimated 80 percent of the food was stolen. These factors led to even more starvation, from which an estimated 300,000 people died and another 1.5 million people suffered between 1991 and 1992. In July 1992, after a ceasefire between the opposing clan factions, the U.N. sent 50 military observers to watch the food’s distribution.
Operation Provide Relief began in August 1992, when the U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced that U.S. military transports would support the multinational U.N. relief effort in Somalia. Ten C-130s and 400 people were deployed to Mombasa, Kenya, airlifting aid to Somalia’s remote areas and reducing reliance on truck convoys. One member of the 86th Supply Squadron, USAFE‘s only contribution to the operation, was deployed with the ground support contingent. The C-130s delivered 48,000 tons of food and medical supplies in six months to international humanitarian organizations trying to help Somalia’s more than three million starving people.
When this proved inadequate to stop the massive death and displacement of the Somali people (500,000 dead and 1.5 million refugees or displaced), the U.S launched a major coalition operation to assist and protect humanitarian activities in December 1992. This operation, called Operation Restore Hope, saw the U.S. assuming the unified command in accordance with Resolution 794. The U.S. Marine Corps landed the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Mogadishu and, with elements of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, secured nearly one-third of the city, the port, and airport facilities within two weeks, with the intent to facilitate airlifted humanitarian supplies. Elements of the 2nd Battalion; HMLA-369 (Helicopter Marine Light Assault-369 of Marine Aircraft Group-39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton); 9th Marines; and 1st Battalion, 7th Marines quickly secured routes to Baidoa, Balidogle and Kismayo, then were reinforced by the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion and the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
On 3 March 1993, the U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali submitted to the U.N. Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He indicated that since Resolution 794’s adoption in December 1992, UNITAF’s presence and operations had created a positive impact on Somalia’s security situation and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance (UNITAF deployed some 37,000 personnel over forty percent of southern and central Somalia). However, there was still no effective government, police, or national army with the result of serious security threats to U.N. personnel. To that end, the Security Council authorized UNOSOM II to establish a secure environment throughout Somalia, to achieve national reconciliation so as to create a democratic state.
At the Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia, held on 15 March 1993, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, all fifteen Somali parties agreed to the terms set out to restore peace and democracy. Yet, by May it became clear that, although a signatory to the March Agreement, Mohammed Farrah Aidid‘s faction would not cooperate in the Agreement’s implementation.
Aidid began to broadcast anti-U.N. propaganda on Radio Mogadishu after believing that the U.N. was purposefully marginalizing him in an attempt to “rebuild Somalia”. Lieutenant General Çevik Bir ordered the radio station shut down, in an attempt to quash the beginning of what could turn into a rebellion. Civilian spies throughout UNOSOM II’s headquarters likely led to the uncovering of the U.N.’s plan. Aidid ordered SNA militia to attack a Pakistani force on 5 June 1993, that had been tasked with the inspection of an arms cache located at the radio station, possibly out of fear that this was a task force sent to shut down the broadcast. The result was 24 dead, and 57 wounded Pakistani troops, as well as 1 wounded Italian and 3 wounded American soldiers. On 6 June 1993, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 837, declaring total war on Aidid and his forces.
On 12 June, U.S. troops started attacking targets in Mogadishu in hopes of finding Aidid, a campaign which lasted until 16 June. On 17 June, a $25,000warrant was issued by Admiral Jonathan Howe for information leading to Aidid’s arrest, but he was never captured. Howe also requested a counter-terroristrescue force after the Pakistanis’ deaths.
Attack on safe house
On 12 July 1993, a U.S.-led operation was launched on what was believed to be a safe house where Aidid was hiding in Mogadishu. During the 17-minute combat operation, U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired 16 TOW missiles and thousands of 20-millimeter cannon rounds into the compound, killing 60 people. However, the number of Somali fatalities was disputed. Abdi Qeybdiid, Aidid’s interior minister, claimed 763 dead, including women and children who had been in the safe house. The reports Jonathan Howe got after the attack placed the number of dead at 20, all men. The International Committee of the Red Cross set the number of dead at 54. As it happened, Aidid was nowhere in sight.
The operation would lead to the deaths of four journalists – Dan Eldon, Hos Maina, Hansi Kraus and Anthony Macharia – who were killed by angry Mogadishu mobs when they arrived to cover the incident, which presaged the Battle of Mogadishu.
Task Force Ranger
On 8 August 1993, Aidid’s militia detonated a remote controlled bomb against a U.S. military vehicle, killing four soldiers. Two weeks later another bomb injured seven more. In response, U.S. President Bill Clinton approved the proposal to deploy a special task force composed of 400 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators.This unit, named Task Force Ranger, consisted of 160 elite U.S. troops.
The force consisted of:
- B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
- C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D)
- A deployment package of 16 helicopters and personnel from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment(160th SOAR), which included MH-60 Black Hawks and AH/MH-6 Little Birds.
- Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)
- Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
On 21 September, Task Force Ranger captured Aidid’s financier, Osman Ali Atto.
First Black Hawk Down
At around 02:00 on 25 September, Aidid’s men shot down a 101st Airborne Division Black Hawk with an RPG and killed three crew members at New Port near Mogadishu. The shootdown was a huge SNA psychological victory.
Order of Battle
U.S. and UNOSOM
The crew of Super 6-4 a month before the Battle of Mogadishu. From left: Winn Mahuron, Tommy Field, Bill Cleveland, Ray Frank and Mike Durant.
Units involved in the battle:
- Task Force Ranger, including :
- C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) – aka “Delta Force“
- Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
- 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (The Night Stalkers) with MH-6J and AH-6 “Little Birds” and MH-60 A/L Black Hawks
- Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron
- CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln & Carrier Air Wing 11
- Task Force–10th Mountain Division, including:
- U.N. Forces
The size and organizational structure of the Somali militia forces involved in the battle are not known in detail. In all, between 2,000–4,000 regular faction members are believed to have participated, almost all of whom belonged to Aidid’s Somali National Alliance. They drew largely from his Habar Gidir Hawiye clan, who battled U.S. troops starting 12 July 1993.
The Somali National Alliance (SNA) was formed 14 August 1992. It began as the United Somali Congress (USC) under Aidid’s leadership. At the time of Operation Gothic Serpent, the SNA was composed of Col. Omar Gess’ Somali Patriotic Movement, the Somali Democratic Movement, the combined Digil and Mirifleh clans, the Habr Gedir of the United Somali Congress headed by Aidid, and the newly established Southern Somali National Movement.
After formation, the SNA immediately staged an assault against the militia of the Hawadle Hawiye clan, who controlled the Mogadishu port area. As a result, the Hawadle Hawiye were pushed out of the area, and Aidid’s forces took control.
- See Timeline of the Battle of Mogadishu for a detailed chronology from a U.S. Army perspective
On Sunday – 3 October 1993, Task Force Ranger, U.S. special operations forces composed mainly of Bravo Company 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (better known as “Delta Force“) operators, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)(“The Night Stalkers”), attempted to capture Aidid’s foreign minister Omar Salad Elmi and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale.
The plan was that Delta operators would assault the target building (using MH-6 Little Bird helicopters) and secure the targets inside the building while four Ranger chalks (under CPT Michael D. Steele‘s command) would fast rope down from hovering MH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. The Rangers would then create a four-corner defensive perimeter around the building while a column of nine HMMWVs and three M939 five-ton trucks (under LTC Danny McKnight’s command) would arrive at the building to take the entire assault team and their prisoners back to base. The entire operation was estimated to take no longer than 30 minutes.
The ground-extraction convoy was supposed to reach the captive targets a few minutes after the operation’s beginning. However, it ran into delays. Somali citizens and local militia formed barricades along Mogadishu’s streets with rocks, wreckage, rubbish and burning tires, blocking the convoy from reaching the Rangers and their captives. Aidid militiamen with megaphones were shouting, “Kasoobaxa guryaha oo iska celsa cadowga!” (“Come out and defend your homes!”).
At 13:50, Task Force Ranger analysts receive intelligence of Salad’s location.
At 15:42, the MH-6 assault Little Birds carrying the Delta operators hit the target, the wave of dust becoming so bad that one was forced to go around again and land out of position. Next, the two Black Hawks carrying the second Delta assault team came into position and dropped their teams as the four Ranger chalks prepared to rope onto the four corners surrounding the target building. By mistake, Chalk Four being carried by Black Hawk callsign Super 6-7, piloted by CW3 Jeff Niklaus, was accidentally put in a block north of their intended point. Declining the pilot’s offer to move them back down due to the time it would take to do so, leaving the helicopter too exposed, Chalk Four intended to move down to the planned position, but intense ground fire prevented them from doing so.
The ground convoy arrives ten minutes later near the Olympic Hotel and wait for Delta and Rangers to complete their mission(target building).
During the operation’s first moments, Ranger PFC Todd Blackburn, from Chalk Four, fell while fast-roping from his Black Hawk Super 6-7 while it was hovering 70 feet (21 m) above the streets. The film Black Hawk Down shows that he slipped when the helicopter was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid an incoming RPG fired from a nearby rooftop, although, according to Bowden, video does not show the helicopter moving. Blackburn suffered an injury to his head and back of his neck and required evacuation by SGT Jeff Struecker‘s column of three Humvees. While taking PFC Todd Blackburn back to base, SGT Dominick Pilla, assigned to SGT Struecker’s Humvee, was killed instantly when a bullet entered his head. When SGT Struecker’s Humvee column reached the base and safety, all three vehicles were riddled with bullet holes and smoking.
At about 16:20, one of the Black Hawk helicopters, callsign Super 6-1 piloted by CW3 Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley, was shot down by an RPG. Both pilots were killed in the resulting crash and two of the crew chiefs were severely wounded. SSG Daniel Busch and SGT Jim Smith, both Delta snipers, survived the crash and began defending the site.
An MH-6, callsign Star 4-1 and piloted by CW3 Karl Maier and CW5 Keith Jones, landed nearby and Jones left the helicopter and carried Busch to the safety of the Helo while Maier provided cover fire from the Little Bird’s cockpit, repeatedly denying order to lift off while his co-pilot was not in the Bird. He nearly hit Chalk One’s LT DiTomosso arriving with Rangers and Delta operators to secure the site. Jones and Maier evacuated SSG Busch and SGT Smith, though SSG Busch later died of his injuries, being shot four times while defending the crash site.
A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) team, led by Air Force Pararescueman TSgt Scott Fales, were able to fast rope down to Super 6-1‘s crash site despite an RPG hit that crippled their helicopter, Super 6–8, piloted by CW3 Dan Jollota. Despite the damage, Super 6–8 did make it back to base. The CSAR team found both the pilots dead and two wounded inside the crashed helicopter. Under intense fire, the team moved the wounded men to a nearby collection point, where they built a makeshift shelter using Kevlar armor plates salvaged from Super 6-1‘s wreckage.
There was confusion between the ground convoy and the assault team. The assault team and the ground convoy waited for 20 minutes to receive their orders to move out. Both units were under the mistaken impression that they were to be first contacted by the other. During the wait, a second Black Hawk helicopter, callsign Super 6-4 and piloted by CW3 Michael Durant, was shot down by an RPG at around 16:40.
Most of the assault team went to the first crash site for a rescue operation. Upon reaching the site, about 90 Rangers and Delta Force operators found themselves under heavy fire. Despite air support, the assault team was effectively trapped for the night. With a growing number of wounded needing shelter, they occupied several nearby houses and confined the occupants for the battle’s duration. Outside, a stiff breeze stirred up blinding, brown clouds of dust.
At the second crash site, two Delta snipers, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart, were inserted by Black Hawk Super 6-2 – piloted by CW3 Mike Goffena. Their first two requests to be inserted were denied, but they were finally granted permission upon their third request. They inflicted heavy casualties on the approaching Somali mob. Super 6-2 had kept up their fire support for MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart, but an RPG struck Super 6-2. Despite the damage, Super 6-2 managed to go to the New Port and safety. When MSG Gordon was eventually killed, SFC Shughart picked up Gordon’s CAR-15 and gave it to Super 6-4 pilot CW3 Michael Durant. SFC Shughart went back around the chopper’s nose and held off the mob for about 10 more minutes, before he was killed. The Somalis then overran the crash site and killed all but Durant. He was nearly beaten to death, but was saved when members of Aidid’s militia came to take him prisoner. For their actions, MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first awarded since the Vietnam War.
Repeated attempts by the Somalis to mass forces and overrun the American positions in a series of firefights near the first crash site were neutralized by aggressive small arms fire and by strafing runs and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter gunships of the Nightstalkers, the only air unit equipped for and trained for night fighting.
A relief convoy with elements from the Task Force 2–14 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, accompanied by Malaysian and Pakistani U.N. forces, arrived at the first crash site at around 02:00. No contingency planning or coordination with U.N. forces had been arranged prior to the operation; consequently, the recovery of the surrounded American troops was significantly complicated and delayed. Determined to protect all of the rescue convoy’s members, General Garrisonmade sure that the convoy would roll out in force. When the convoy finally pushed into the city, it consisted of more than 100 U.N. vehicles including Malaysian forces’ German made Condor APCs, four Pakistani tanks (M48s), American Humvees and several M939 five-ton flatbed trucks. This two-mile-long column was supported by several other Black Hawks and Cobra assault helicopters stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. Meanwhile, Task Force Ranger’s “Little Birds” continued their defense of Super 6-1‘s downed crew and rescuers. The American assault force sustained heavy casualties, including several killed, and a Malaysian soldier died when an RPG hit his Condor vehicle. Seven Malaysians and two Pakistanis were wounded.
The battle was over by 06:30 on Monday, 4 October. U.S. forces were finally evacuated to the U.N. base by the armored convoy. While leaving the crash site, a group of Rangers and Delta operators realized that there was no room left in the vehicles for them and were forced to depart the city on foot to a rendezvous point on National Street. This has been commonly referred to as the “Mogadishu Mile“. U.S. forces suffered one casualty during the mile, Sgt. Randal J. Ramaglia, after he was hit by a bullet in the back, and successfully evacuated.
In all, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in action during the battle and another 73 were wounded in action. The Malaysian forces lost one soldier and had seven injured, while the Pakistanis suffered two injured. Somali casualties were heavy, with estimates on fatalities ranging from 315 to over 2,000 combatants. The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen and local civilians. Somali civilians suffered heavy casualties due to the dense urban character of that portion of Mogadishu. Two days later, a mortar round fell on the U.S. compound, killing one U.S. soldier, SFC Matt Rierson, and injuring another twelve. A team on special mission to Durant’s Super 6-4 helicopter had 2 wounded, Boxerman and James on 6 October.
Two weeks after the battle, General Garrison officially accepted responsibility. In a handwritten letter to president Clinton, Garrison took full responsibility for the battle’s outcome. He wrote that Task Force Ranger had adequate intelligence for the mission and that their objective (capturing targets from the Olympic Hotel) was met.
After the battle, the bodies of several of the conflict’s U.S. casualties (Black Hawk Super 6-4‘s crewmembers and their protectors, Delta Force soldiers MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart) were dragged through Mogadishu’s streets by crowds of local civilians and SNA forces. Through negotiation and threats to the Habr Gidr clan leaders by ambassador Robert B. Oakley, all the bodies were eventually recovered. The bodies were returned in horrible condition, one with a severed head. Michael Durant was released after 11 days of captivity. On the beach near the base, a memorial was held for those who were killed in combat.
Lance Corporal Mat Aznan Awang, driver of a Malaysian Condor armoured personnel carrier, was killed when his vehicle was hit by an RPG on 3 October. He was posthumously promoted to Corporal, and awarded theSeri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (Gallant Warrior/Warrior of Extreme Valour) medal.
Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, the U.S. special representative to Somalia, is quoted as saying: “My own personal estimate is that there must have been 1,500 to 2,000 Somalis killed and wounded that day, because that battle was a true battle. And the Americans and those who came to their rescue, were being shot at from all sides … a deliberate war battle, if you will, on the part of the Somalis. And women and children were being used as shields and some cases women and children were actually firing weapons, and were coming from all sides. Sort of a rabbit warren of huts, houses, alleys, and twisting and turning streets, so those who were trying to defend themselves were shooting back in all directions. Helicopter gun ships were being used as well as all sorts of automatic weapons on the ground by the U.S. and the United Nations. The Somalis, by and large, were using automatic rifles and grenade launchers and it was a very nasty fight, as intense as almost any battle you would find.”
Reliable estimates place the number of Somali insurgents killed at between 800 to as many as 1,000 with perhaps another 4,000 wounded. Somali militants, however, claimed a much lower casualty rate. Aidid himself claimed that only 315 – civilians and militia – were killed and 812 wounded. Captain Haad, in an interview on American public television, said 133 of the SNA militia were killed.
Black Hawk Down (film)
|Black Hawk Down|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ridley Scott|
|Produced by||Jerry Bruckheimer
|Screenplay by||Ken Nolan|
|Based on||Black Hawk Down
by Mark Bowden
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Editing by||Pietro Scalia|
Scott Free Productions
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||144 minutes|
Black Hawk Down is a 2001 American war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1999 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which chronicles the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, a raid integral to the United States’ effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
The film features a large ensemble cast, including Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore,William Fichtner and Sam Shepard. The film won two Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound at the 74th Academy Awards. The film was received positively by American film critics, but was strongly criticized by Somalis.
In 1993, famine and civil war have gripped Somalia, resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths and a major United Nations peacekeeping operation. With the bulk of the peacekeepers withdrawn, the Somali militia loyal to the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid have declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel. In response, U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators are deployed to Somalia to capture Aidid, who has proclaimed himself president of the country.
To cement his power and subdue the population of Somalia, Aidid and his militia seize Red Cross food shipments, coercing the cooperation of the people, while the U.N. forces are powerless to directly intervene. Outside Mogadishu, Rangers and Delta Force operators capture Osman Ali Atto, a warlord selling arms to Aidid’s militia. Shortly thereafter, a mission is planned to capture Omar Salad Elmi and Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdiid, two of Aidid’s top advisers.
The U.S. forces include experienced men as well as new recruits, including Private First Class Todd Blackburn and a desk clerk going on his first mission. When his Lieutenant is removed from duty after having an epileptic seizure, Staff Sergeant Matthew Eversmann is placed in command of Ranger Chalk Four, his first command.
The operation is launched and Delta Force operators successfully capture Aidid’s advisers inside the target building. The Rangers and helicopters escorting the ground-extraction convoy take heavy fire, while SGT Eversmann’s Chalk Four is dropped a block away by mistake. Blackburn is severely injured after falling from one of the Black Hawk helicopters, so three Humvees led by Sergeant Jeff Struecker are detached from the convoy to return Blackburn to the U.N.-held Mogadishu Airport.
SGT Dominick Pilla is shot and killed just as Struecker’s column gets underway, and shortly thereafter Black Hawk Super-Six One, piloted by CWO Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott, is shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade(RPG) and crashes deep within the city. Both pilots are killed, the two crew chiefs are wounded, and one Delta Force sniper on board escapes in another helo that makes it back to base.
The ground forces are rerouted to converge on the crash site. The Somali militia throws up roadblocks, causing LTC Danny McKnight’s Humvee column to lose its way, while sustaining heavy casualties. Meanwhile, two Ranger Chalks, including Eversmann’s unit, reach Super-Six One’s crash site and set up a defensive perimeter to await evacuation with the two wounded men and the fallen pilots. In the interim, Super-Six Four, piloted by CWO Michael Durant, is also shot down by an RPG and crashes several blocks away.
With CPT Mike Steele’s Rangers pinned down and sustaining heavy casualties, no ground forces can reach Super Six Four’s crash site nor reinforce the Rangers defending Super Six One. Two Delta Force snipers, SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon are inserted by helicopter to Super Six Four’s crash site, where they find Durant still alive. The crash site is eventually overrun, Gordon and Shughart are killed, and Durant is captured and taken to Aidid.
McKnight’s column gives up the attempt to reach Six-One’s crash site and returns to base with their prisoners and the casualties. The men prepare to go back to extract the pinned down Rangers and the fallen pilots and MG Garrison sends LTC Joe Cribbs to ask for reinforcements from the 10th Mountain Division, including Malaysian and armored Pakistani forces, to mobilize as a relief column.
As night falls the Somali militia launch a sustained assault on the trapped Americans at Super Six One’s crash site. The militia is held off throughout the night by strafing runs and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter gunships of the Nightstalkers, until the 10th Mountain Division’s relief column is able to reach the site. The wounded and casualties are evacuated in the vehicles, but a handful of remaining Rangers and Delta Force soldiers are forced to run from the crash site back to the stadium, in the UN Safe Zone.
The closing credits detail the results of the raid: 19 American soldiers were killed, with over 1,000 Somalis dead. Durant was released after 11 days of captivity. Delta Force snipers Gordon and Shughart were the first soldiers to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. On August 2, 1996, Aidid was killed in a battle with a rival clan. General Garrison retired the following day.
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Some believe that this American attack was a turning point in unifying Somalis against U.S. efforts in Somalia, including former moderates and those opposed to the Habar Gidir.