On October 3, 1993, the U.S. Armed Forces were involved in a battle that took the lives of 18 soldiers. Their story is told by Mark Bowden in Black Hawk Down. Black Hawk Down was a great movie, but it is an even better book. Mark Bowden’s telling of this story is both fair and brilliant. I was surprised to learn especially that he had never served in the military.
The more I read military books, the more I realize that the biggest threat to American soldiers on the battlefield is the politicians in Washington D.C. This is not a new phenomenon. As far back as the Mexican War, General Winfield Scott felt his biggest enemy was the politicians. I highly recommend every politician to read this book. This will help them walk a mile in the shoes of an American soldier.
The battle of Mogadishu took place early in the Bill Clinton presidency. As soon the American people saw dead U.S. military personnel being drug around Mogadishu, the politicians in D.C. started circling the wagons. Politicians started pointing figures and Bill Clinton ordered the U.S. Military to stand down. If it were not for this book, the politicians would have swept this entire story under the rug.
Black Hawk Down – The Intro
Mogadishu, the capital city of the African country Somalia is the backdrop to this story. Somalia was in the middle of a Civil War and various warlords were trying to claim their supremacy. The United Nations was involved with providing humanitarian aid to the country.
Eventually, it became clear that there was one warlord that was causing most of the problems, Mohammed Farrah Aidid. Task Force Ranger was created to deal with Aidid. Task Force Ranger was made up of 1st Special Force (Delta), 75th Ranger Regiment, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Black Hawks), 24th Special Tactics Squadron (Combat Pararescuemen), and Navy Seals.
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger received solid intel that two of Aidid’s top men were in a particular building in Mogadishu. Over the previous several months, Task Force Ranger had managed to capture several key Aidid personal. In these previous missions, the men were able to get in and out in about an hour. Today was going to be a different story.
Black Hawk Down – The Battle of Mogadishu
Aidid’s men had learned how to shot RPGs and take out helicopters. The October 3 raid started as schedule and appeared like it was going to be successful. They apprehended the two target individuals. However, before they were able to congratulate themselves, one of Aidid’s men shot an RPG at one of the Black Hawks and it went down. A few minutes later, a second Black Hawk went down. Three more Black Hawks ended up being hit but they were able to make it back to base.
Aidid’s men had figured that one of the biggest weaknesses of the U.S. military was their code of never leaving a man behind. Aidid’s men had trained to take down the Black Hawks knowing that this would force the Rangers to stay and fight. Aidid was tired of the Rangers coming into town and taking one of his men and then leaving with hardly a fight. The Rangers needed to pay and the only way to do this was by taking out the Black Hawks.
As a result of two Black Hawks going down, the Rangers were forced into a giant firefight with a determined Somalia fighting force. While the Somalis were not as well armed as the Rangers, they did have two major advantages. Their first advantage was that they were fighting on their home turf. Their second advantage was that there were more of them then Rangers.
Black Hawk Down – The Rescue
For 16.5 hours the battle raged. Finally, a new task force made up of the 10th Mountain Division, a tank division from Pakistan, and armored personnel carriers from Malaysia were able to fight their way into the city and rescue the Task Force. While this new task force was superior armed to anything the Somalis could put forth, they had major problems just navigating the city to get to the trapped men.
Finally, the men had reached safety and they learned that 18 men had died. However, they had not brought every man back. On television, they watched as Somalis dragged the corpse of several of their men. This created great tension for the families at home that heard that their soldier was missing. They had seen a video of at least one soldier who was a POW. The families were wondering if it was their soldier who was being dragged around the city or if somehow he was still alive as a prisoner of war.
Black Hawk Down – The Aftermath
Over the course of the next several days, the remains of the men who had been drug around the city were recovered. The one prisoner of war, Michael Durant was eventually released. In addition to the 18 U.S. soldiers who died, it is estimated that somewhere between 315 and 3,000 Somalis died.
Because Bill Clinton ordered the U.S. to pull out, the United Nations also pulled out. For the soldiers who fought this battle, they were frustrated. They were sent in to do a job and they had done the job. While men died, they felt that these lives were given in vain because of the shift of public policy. The Task Force had inflicted serious damage upon Aidid’s men and they were not allowed to go in and finish the job.
Whether or not the United States should have been in Somalia is a question that politicians can debate. However, once the decision is made, our politicians should not be freckles leaders with their fingers on the pulse of public opinion. These brave men were fighting a fight that we had ordered them to fight.
My personal Thanks
I personally want to thank the families of the brave men who died or were injured in doing their duty that day in the city of Mogadishu.