On October 3rd, 1993, U.S. Forces from Task Force Ranger set out for the Somali city of Mogadishu to capture the Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed. That day would be remembered years later for the downing of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and the intense urban fighting that followed, coined “Battle of Mogadishu,” which was documented in the book “Black Hawk Down” and inspired the 2001 film of the same name.
After the helicopters went down, Task Force Ranger worked to protect the crash sites from Somali mobs and a numerically superior force of Somali fighters.
In the ensuing battle, 17 members of the task force were killed and 106 more were wounded. Somali death tolls in the battle are estimated in the hundreds.
The U.S. involvement in Somalia began initially as an effort to support U.N. peacekeeping efforts during Operation Restore Hope. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the U.N. started providing assistance in 1992 for Somalis suffering from famine.
The U.S. forces prepared to intervene after Aideed began attacking those U.N. peacekeepers. According to the Smithsonian, the plan was to arrest two of Aideed’s lieutenants and gathered leaders of his Somali Habar Gidir clan. Rangers planned to helicopter in and deploy from fast-ropes to surround a three-story building in Mogadishu where the militant clan leaders would be gathered.
A ground convoy was prepared to carry away those Rangers and their captives. In total, the plan called for the use of 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and about 160 troops; however, what was meant to be a quick “snatch-and-grab” mission became an 18-hour firefight through the urban center of Mogadishu.
In the opening minutes of the operation, Somali crowds gathered to watch the spectacle but eventually turned hostile.
Two of the Black Hawk helicopters were brought down by ground-fire and U.S. forces jumped to action in an effort to rescue those helicopter crews.
Among those rescue efforts, two 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. The two fended off numerous attackers before being overwhelmed and killed as they attempted to save one of the pilots, Michael Durant.
“They were textbook special ops guys,” Durant said in a 2008 interview with Defense Media Network. He said they showed no signs of panic as they held off attacks for about 15 minutes.
Durant was eventually captured by Somali fighters and held prisoner for 11 days.
Gordon and Shughart were later awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts to rescue durant and defend the downed helicopter.
Despite the professional efforts of U.S. forces, much of the media fallout from the battle fixated on Somali mobs dragging U.S. bodies through the streets of Mogadishu and according to the Smithsonian, then-President Bill Clinton elected to remove U.S. forces from Somalia by March 1994.