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Task Force Ranger Anniversary: The Battle of Mogadishu, Oct. 3, 1993

The Delta Force operators would “kick in the doors” to secure the building, while Rangers would deploy around the perimeter to prevent any escape or interference.

“The only thing different about the mission going in was that it was in a particularly dangerous part of town. We’d already been told that,” said Ranger Sgt. Keni Thomas in a 2002 interview for this publication with the late Barbara Hall. Thomas was part of “Chalk 3,” the Ranger squad aboard Black Hawk Super Six Six.

Initially, the raid went well. But while fast-roping from a helicopter, one Ranger, Pfc. Todd Blackburn, fell 70 feet and was severely injured. By 1615 hours, the clan leaders and 21 other detainees were safely cuffed and loaded onto the trucks of the ground convoy, but crowds of angry, armed Somalis were gathering around the area. In the afternoons, Somali men like to chew khat leaves, “an amphetamine-like stimulant” that produces euphoria. The combination of khat, young men, and automatic weapons made for a perfect storm.

Mogadishu aerial view post battle

An aerial view of Mogadishu after the battle. The dense urban terrain of the city made for a chaotic fight for the members of Task Force (TF) Ranger. DoD photo

Then, at 1620 hours, Black Hawk Super Six One was hit by at least one RPG and crashed in the street northeast of the target area, killing the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Clifton Wolcott, and co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Donovan Briley. Very suddenly, the initiative had shifted, and Garrison ordered the raid forces to focus on rescuing survivors from the downed Black Hawk. The neighborhood around the crash site would become the center of the subsequent battle, with Rangers, Delta operators, and others trying to hold back attacks by swarms of Aidid’s militia and angry “civilians.”

“The level of fire got really intense,” Thomas said, “coming from every direction at that point, and people started getting hit. We were jammed into a one- or two-block area with a lot of fire coming from all directions.

“It was weird watching this slow, spinning turn,” Thomas said, “and the Black Hawk crashed off in the neighborhood, as if you were standing in your own neighborhood and watched him go over the trees somewhere.”

Battle of mogadishu city map

A U.S. Army map of the area of the Battle of Mogadishu. U.S. Army image

The first troops dispatched to the crash site were Rangers and other personnel who moved toward the site on foot. They quickly took heavy fire, and began to suffer casualties. Eventually, a handful, under Lt. Tom DiTomasso, reached the site and began to set up a perimeter and care for the wounded personnel. They also supported a daring rescue by a “Little Bird” crew that braved the gunfire to land and pick up two wounded men. Black Hawk Super Six Eight also arrived with the combat search and rescue team, who roped in and helped stabilize the perimeter, but the Super Six Eight was itself hit by an RPG and barely made it back to the airport. As the rest of the Rangers began to arrive on foot, so too did more armed Somalis.

“The level of fire got really intense,” Thomas said, “coming from every direction at that point, and people started getting hit. We were jammed into a one- or two-block area with a lot of fire coming from all directions.

“There were a lot of alleys, and there’s no way to plan for something like that – that’s where your basic skills, your preparation came into play,” Thomas said. “I tell this to everyone: The reason we didn’t lose more people that day was because of how well trained we were and the increased level of training that we did every day in the sand dunes. We fired so many live rounds, and we fired every weapon system available – 203s and pistols and shotguns. Firing became second nature; we just got very good at what we did. It came down to our basic infantry skills, you know? We just were so good at it that even in the face of the numbers we were up against, the training got us through.”

Mogadishu Green Line

An abandoned Mogadishu street known as the “Green Line.” Foliage has grown up along the sidewalk on both sides of the street. The street was the dividing line between North and South Mogadishu and the warring clans. Members of the clans tore down the roadblocks along the line in a show of unity. DoD photo

Meanwhile, the ground convoy attempting to reach the Super Six One crash site got lost – there were no good maps of the sprawling chaotic city, and 1993 was the era before widespread use of GPS. Troops on board began taking casualties in a running gun battle with SNA snipers. At about 1700 hours, a “quick reaction force” convoy was launched to link up with the lost convoy, fighting its way through the streets of Mogadishu. But by 1745, the lost convoy returned to base, with 99 Rangers and other personnel still trapped in between the target and the Super Six One crash site.

At 1640 hours, a second Black Hawk, Super Six Four, was hit by RPG fire, crashing some distance south of the target. Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant and three of his flight crew were severely injured, and a mob of Somalis quickly surrounded the crash site. Two Delta snipers, Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart, volunteered to fast-rope down to the ground to protect the injured men at the crash site, where they held off the mob until they ran out of ammunition and were killed at about 1740 hours.

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