On Thursday, the U.S. Army announced it had approved upgrades to the medals 60 special operations troops received from 1993’s Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, also known as the Battle of Mogadishu or “Black Hawk Down.”
In total, 58 special operations troops were upgraded to Silver Stars, the third-highest U.S. military decoration for valor in combat. Two more special operations troops were upgraded to Distinguished Flying Crosses, which recognizes acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.
The Oct. 3, 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia was part of a U.S. Army mission to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid. The attempt to capture Aidid and disrupt his militants was launched after Aidid had attacked United Nation’s peacekeeping forces supporting relief efforts during Somalia’s civil war.
During the Battle of Mogadishu, two U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, and the mission that originally intended to capture Aidid transformed into a mission to recover the crews of the two helicopters and evacuate from the city. 18 members of the U.S. task force were killed and 106 more were wounded.
“On the afternoon of Oct. 3, armed militants shot down two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, after which U.S. ground forces converged on the two downed aircraft to recover the personnel,” the Army said Thursday, “The ensuing intense firefight resulted in the loss of 18 American Soldiers and remains an especially significant point in the history of the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Special Operations Command specifically.”
The Somali combatants’ death tolls from the battle are estimated in the hundreds.
The Army announced the upgraded awards will be presented later this year in separate commemoration ceremonies hosted by each of the units in which the particular soldier served at the time of the mission nearly 28 years ago.
The Army did not name which U.S. soldiers who participated in the battle would see their medals upgraded.
Following the downing of the two Black Hawk helicopters, Delta Force Soldiers Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart elected to respond alone to one of the crash sites, despite growing mobs threatening the rescue effort.
Gordon and Shughart arrived at the crash site and fended off numerous attackers before being overwhelmed and killed as they attempted to save one of the pilots, Michael Durant.
In a 2008 interview with Defense Media Network, Durant said Gordon and Shughart were “textbook special ops guys” who showed no signs of panic as they held off attacks for about 15 minutes.
After Gordon and Shughart were killed, Durant was captured by Aidid’s loyalist fighters and held prisoner for 11 days, before eventually being released.
Gordon and Shughart were later awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts to rescue Durant and defend the downed helicopter.
The events of the Battle of Mogadishu were retold in the 1999 book “Black Hawk Down” and the 2001 movie of the same name.