This year between October 3-4 is the 23rd anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu fought in Somalia.
The fight was between United States forces and UNOSOM II against Somali militiamen that were loyal to Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Task Force Ranger was tasked with seizing two of Aidid’s lieutenants while they were in a meeting in the city of Mogadishu and the mission was only to last an hour, but it turned out to be a deadly battle and rescue operation on the streets of Mogadishu.
Task Force Ranger departed on August 26. The mission of the 160th SOAR (A) as defined by the task force commander was: “When directed, [to] deploy to Mogadishu, Somalia; [to] conduct operations to capture General Aideed and/or designated others. The aviation task force must be prepared to conduct two primary courses of action: moving convoy and strong point assault. . . . Success is defined as the live capture of General Aideed and designated individuals and recovery to the designated transload point; safely and without fratricide.”
On the afternoon of 3 October 1993, informed that two leaders of Aidids’ were at a residence in central Mogadishu, the task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest them. During the mission, one of the Rangers fast-roping from an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, missed the rope and fell 70 feet to the street below,badly injuring himself. The two leaders were arrested, and the prisoners and the injured Ranger were loaded on a convoy of ground vehicles.
Another MH-60 Blackhawk, call sign Super 61, piloted by CW4 Clifton P. Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley, was flying low over the street a few blocks from the target area, and was struck from behind by an rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The helicopter crashed in the street below.
Somalians and a convoy headed to the crash site. An MH-6 Little Bird, call sign Star 41, piloted by CW4 Keith Jones and CW3 Karl Maier, landed in the street next to the downed MH-60 and attempted to evacuate the men injured. Both Wolcott and Briley who had been killed in the crash. Jones pulled two soldiers in the MH-6 while Maier laid down suppressive fire from the cockpit.The MH-6 managed to escape with survivors even though they were under intense ground fire.
Blackhawk Super 64, with pilot CW3 Michael Durant, copilot CW4 Raymond Frank, and crewmembers SSG William Cleveland and SSG Thomas Field, moved in to take Super 61’s place in the formation. As Super 64 circled over the target area, they were hit by an RPG. The tail rotor was damaged and it was ordered back to the airfield, but crashed while on its way.
Meanwhile the ground convoy had lost its way, and rescue forces were already overtaxed at the site of the first Blackhawk crash. As armed Somalis rushed toward the Super 64 crash site, the crew’s only hope came from SFC Randall Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon aboard the covering Blackhawk, Super 62, who volunteered to jump in and protect the crew of the downed helicopter.
Durant and Frank had broken legs and both crew chiefs were badly wounded. Armed Somalis, organized by the militia surrounded the crew and their support. The armed Somalis killed everyone except for Durant. They captured him, beat him and took him prisoner. They planned to trade him for Somali prisoners. However, they were intercepted by bandits that took Durant, intending to use him as ransom.
Another Blackhawk carrying a rescue team arrived over the crash site of Super 61 and the 15-man team fast-roped to the ground. They found both Wolcott and Briley already dead, but crew chiefs Staff Sgt. Ray Dowdy and Staff Sgt. Charlie Warren were still alive in the wreckage. It took hours to pull Wolcott’s body from the wreckage. In the meantime, the soldiers set up a perimeter to protect against attack from Somali militia and armed civilians and awaited the arrival of a convoy from the 10th Mountain Division to rescue them.
Aidid paid his ransom and Durant was taken to the apartment of his propaganda minister. After ten days, with the intervention of former U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Robert Oakley, he was released and flew home to a hero’s welcome.
In the Battle of Mogadishu, five men were killed, eight were wounded and one was taken captive. The result was still mission accomplished as Aidid’s two leaders were still taken into custody by Task Force Ranger.