The Battle of Mogadishu is a two day war that was fought between the United States (in conjunction with UNOSOM II) and an outlaw gang of militiamen who had allied themselves with Mohamed Farrah Aidid—the self-declared ruler of Somalia. This war occurred on the 3rd and 4th of October in 1993. The Battle of Mogadishu is also referred to as the Day of the Rangers and First Battle of Mogadishu. The reason for the latter is that there were eight other prominent Battles of Mogadishu. All these occurred during the civil war in Somalia that lasted decades.
In August of 1993, several elite commando units in the United States Specials Operations Command were assembled to form the Task Force Rangers. This super elite team was then deployed to Somalia in September of the same year. This Task Force Rangers included units from the US Army Rangers, Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta (also known as Delta Force), Air Force pararescuemen and the elite of the elite—the Navy SEALs. This team was commanded by William F. Garrison, who was a Major General at the Joint Special Operations Command.
The mission was simple. Capture the leaders of the Mohamed Farrah Aidid led Habr Gidr clan. The Task Force was supposed to travel from their secret base on the outskirts of the city to the center of the city, where their targets were holed up. The entire retinue included aircrafts, Humvees and about 160 soldiers. The operations was not supposed to last for more than one hour. However, when two Black Hawk helicopters were gunned down by Somali militia and armed civilians, the mission began to go sideways. This happened barely after the main assault had begun.
A mission that was only supposed to last less than an hour stretched into the night, when it became a standoff, because the soldiers were hell bent on rescuing the crew from the downed helicopters and other soldiers who went down during the assault. Daylight rescue occurred in the morning of the next day, the 4th of October, turning a one hour battle into a two day conflict in the heart of Mogadishu. Nineteen soldiers died, seventy three were wounded, while one of the helicopter pilot became a prisoner to the Somali militia. The rescue operation involved soldiers from Pakistan and Malaysia, of which one soldier was killed from each nation. It is estimated that casualties on the Somali side were between 1,500 and 3,000 and included civilians. This is however contradicted by Somali sources who claim that only 315 people died.
The two Black Hawk helicopters were downed by Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). Three other helicopters were damaged, but didn’t go down. Some of the soldiers from the downed helicopters were able to make it to the compound which was now held by the Task Force. The rest that couldn’t make it were now isolated from the rest of the team as the firefight began, lasting through the night.
The rescue operation was mounted by a combined effort of the United Starts, Malaysia and Pakistan. The rescue effort involved more than a hundred vehicles, which included tanks from the Pakistan Army, Armored Personnel Carriers from the Malaysian Army and air support from the United States Black Hawk helicopters. The rescue team went to the first crash site first and rescued the isolated survivors. They then went to the second crash site but discovered that it had been overrun. They would later find out that two Delta snipers had held back the thousands of civilian enemy combatants before they were finally overrun and killed. The pilot of second Black Hawk was captured, but later released. This pilot was the only survivor of the second crash site.
No one knows just how many people died at the Battle of Mogadishu. The estimates, however, range between the hundreds to the thousands. Injuries is estimated at 3,000 – 4,000. Red Cross estimates is that two hundred civilians were killed, while several hundreds more were wounded during the two day conflict. Another estimate dictate that about seven hundred Somali fighters were killed while over a thousand were injured. The Somali National Alliance pegs the estimate at only 133 killed during the entire battle.
The Washington Post reported about 312 killed, while the Pentagon said only five Task Force Operators were killed—but really, the death toll was eighteen, while seventy three were wounded. The nineteenth casualty was killed by a mortar strike two days after the Battle of Mogadishu. At the time, this battle was the bloodiest battle the United States Military had even been involved with since the Vietnam War. This was later trumped by the 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah.
The events of the Battle of Mogadishu was published in a book titled Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden. This book was based on a series he published in The Philadelphia Chronicles which was centered on the battle and the men involved. Michael Durat also published his book, In the Company of Heroes, where he narrated how he was shot and captured by the Somalia militiamen. Another published book, The Battle of Mogadishu, was put together by Matthew Eversmann and Chalk Four who narrated different accounts of the battle.
Other materials that were either written around the Battle of Mogadishu or had sections that spoke about the Battle include: Keni Thomas’ Get it On!: What It Means to Lead the Way, 2011 SEAL Team Six book by Howard Wasdin, William Boykin’s Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom and Michael Whetstone’s Madness in Mogadishu.
Black Hawk Down was later adapted into a movie that, like the book, chronicled the events of the two day battle. This movie was directed by Ridley Scott. A documentary was made about the battle, which aired on The History Channel in 2003. This documentary was directed by David Keane.
Two Task Force survivors from the battle returned to Mogadishu in 2013 to do a short movie titled Return to Mogadishu: Black Hawk Down.