October 3rd marks the anniversary of Operation Gothic Serpent, more famously known as the Battle of Mogadishu. It was a watershed moment in special operations that would leave an indelible impression on those that lived through it.
A special operations task force, Task Force Ranger, had been deployed to Somalia in August of 1993. The task force mainly consisted of Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Delta Force's C Squadron; and the elite aviators of 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Their objective was the capture of Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who led a militia group that had begun attacking UN aid shipments and peacekeepers. On October 3rd, 1993, Task Force Ranger launched a raid to capture several of Aidid's lieutenants.
The raid target was the Olympic Hotel, in the midst of the militia controlled Bakaara Market in Mogadishu. Four chalks of 3/75 Rangers would insert via MH-60L Black Hawks to cordon off the target area while Delta operators would be inserted directly onto the hotel via MH-6 Little Birds. A ground convoy would link up with the Ranger cordon, Delta operators, any captured high-value targets and drive back to their base at Mogadishu International Airport. It was expected to take 30 minutes.
It would turn into a day-long ordeal. During the raid, one of the 160th Black Hawks was shot down by an RPG-7. Attempts by the ground convoy to reach the crash site were stymied by burning roadblocks and intense fire from Somali militiamen. A second Black Hawk was then shot down. Two Delta operators (MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart) requested to be inserted to try and hold off the approaching militia. Gordon and Shughart found that CW3 Michael Durant, a 160th pilot, had survived the crash but was not able to move with an injured back and a broken femur. Shughart and Gordon held off several attacks by militia forces until they were overrun and killed. For their sacrifice, they would receive the first Medals of Honor awarded since the Vietnam War.
The assault force that made it to the first crash site were trapped in the city as they worked to recover the bodies from the downed Black Hawk. Early the next morning, the Ranger convoy along with elements from the 10th Mountain Division and Pakistani and Malaysian troops from the UN peacekeeping force, arrived to extract the rest of Task Force Ranger. One group of Rangers found themselves running the rest of the way out of Mogadishu due to lack of space inside their convoy vehicles. This would later be dubbed the "Mogadishu mile."
The Battle of Mogadishu ultimately claimed 19 American lives. A Delta operator would be killed two days latter in a mortar attack. Another 73 were wounded. Michael Durant was captured by Adid's militia, but would be released 11 days later. The violent engagement was a shock to the American public who had little knowledge of the Task Force's operations. It would spell the end of American involvement in Somalia until the post 9/11 global war on terror would bring special operations back to the embattled country. The veterans of the battle would go on to impact the lessons about planning and the vulnerability of helicopters on future special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let's raise a glass in honor of these men and their sacrifice. We remember our fallen.
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