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It was mid-afternoon on October 3, 1993. There were approximately 160 men eagerly awaiting the signal to proceed. Matt Eversmann sat waiting in Super Six Seven, a Black Hawk helicopter. He noticed that things were being done differently from the other setups, which had been false. This time they were packing more ammo and the commander had come out to see them off.
The troops were being sent in because warlords were allowing their people to starve to death. The world had sent food, and the warlords hoarded it. The world had decided to stop this. Today's mission was to invade the Habr Gidr clan that was in Mogadishu Somalia. The clan was led by Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but that day's targets were two of his lieutenants. They were to be arrested and imprisoned with other clan members that had already been captured.
At 3:32 P.M. the armada launched. They flew from the coastal airport into the city of Mogadishu. Above the city the men could see the destructions the city had experienced during civil war. Many buildings were demolished and the streets were crumbling. The Black Hawks were down low over the city, and the Little Birds were closing in on the target. Tires burning on the street near the target set alarm. It was a way Somalis signaled trouble and summoned militia.
When the Little Birds came down people and cars began to scatter. Some people were gesturing eagerly. The Black Hawks would move in next. People began poring into the streets with weapons. Others were building barricades or lighting fires.
The Rangers captured the two targets along with 22 other Somali men on the first floor of the target house. When the Rangers entered the second floor, shots started coming through a window. Rangers on the ground were shooting at their own men. The young Rangers were poorly trained and dangerous.
In the streets fire was rapidly exchanging. The Somali men took advantage of the Americans decency and hid behind women and children. The Somalis moved in groups. The Rangers could not single out the ones with weapons.
Things had gone pretty well. It was 3:50 P.M. The force would be one their way in ten minutes. The Humvees and trucks waited outside the main gates for the D-boys to wrap up. About this time
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Most of the soldiers saw Super Six One going down. Chief Warrant Officer Cliff Wolcott was the pilot of the helicopter. The chopper went into a spin. It hit the top of a house before it came to a rest on its side in an alley. Two Americans were able to climb from the crash.
Super Six Four was asked to fill the downed helicopter's position. On the ground men were moving toward the crash. Some men had not seen the chopper go down and did not understand why they were not leaving yet.
Then another helicopter was hit, it was Super Six Four. Durant, the pilot, did not know what had happened and did not see any reason to worry. The chopper went into a spin and began going down. Just before hitting the ground Super Six Four began to level off. It made a hard, but flat landing.
The convoy was instructed to retrieve everyone from the first crash site and move to the second crash site and secure it. The third Humvee was hit by an RPG. Three men were blown out of the Humvee. One of the men was hit by the following truck. The convoy stopped and retrieved the wounded. They began moving forward again. In the lead Humvee the driver was hit. And at the rear another man had been shot.
Confusion was setting in. Directions given by the command plane could not be followed and the directions given by the observation helicopter were to the second crash site. Things were getting so bad that command was considering releasing the prisoners.
Another Humvee was hit by an RPG. It severed the driver's leg and embedded into his chest. It did not explode. He was unconscious, but alive. His truck crashed into the one ahead. Many of the vehicles were low on ammo. The lead Humvee had two flats. The second Humvee was almost disabled. The third Humvee in line had three flat tires. Some others were smoking and another had a hole where a grenade had hit and four flat tires. Despite these problems command insisted they proceed to the first crash site, but they did not follow orders and headed back toward the base.
JOC was realizing that things were out of control. Minutes after Durant's helicopter had been shot down; the only airborne rescue team had roped into Wolcott's crash site. The chopper that dropped the rescue team had also been shot but the pilot was able to land the Black Hawk at the airport base.
The three Humvee convoy came into base. They unloaded and got orders to go back to Durant's crash. The men were freaking out. They could prepare to fight but never for the blood and gore that the fighting resulted in.
Meanwhile the men left in the city were making their way to the site of the first crash. It was raining RPGs. Formation had broke down and the men were thinking for themselves. When the men linked up with some of the others, they looked forward to the convoy returning and taking them out.
Mike Durant and the other pilot of Super Six Four, Ray Frank, came to. Two D-boys retrieved Durant from the wreckage. Up above in Super Six Two they watched as the mob grew larger around the wreckage. The D-boys positioned themselves and the chopper's crew around the wreckage.
Durant realized that the two D-boys were the only ones to rescue them. He could hear gunfire on the other side of the chopper. He heard both of the D-boys get shot and cry out. A man came around the nose of the plane and saw Durant. A crowd soon followed. A man by the name of Mo'alim grabbed Durant and shouted for the crowd to stay back. He convinced the crowd that Durant would be more valuable alive. He thought the Americans might trade all the captured Somalis for their pilot.
Back at the first crash site they were trying to free Wolcott's body. They had begun moving the wounded into the house they had crashed into. At this point there were already more men down than the CSAR force could take out. It was growing dark and the soldiers had left their Night Observation Devices back at the hanger. All of the vehicles had turned back to the base. When the convoy arrived they separated the injured from the fatally injured and dead.
While this was going on, commanders inside the JOC were watching Somalis overrun the second crash site. Ninety nine men were pinned down in the city. A Black Hawk was ordered to drop water, ammo, and medical supplies, and to possibly pull two critical Rangers out, because it was looking like the men would have to stay over night.
When darkness fell the amateur Somalis went home. There was less firing but they were more accurate. At the site of the first wreckage as long as the soldiers showed no light there was no shooting. They could here promises to send a rescue team over the radio. A bit before midnight they finally heard them miles away. By midnight they knew the rescue was getting closer. It was nearly one hundred vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and Humvees.
Mike Durant also heard the convoy as they entered the city. He was bound with a god chain in a small room with no windows. The group that had originally taken Durant had given him to another group. This group was going to hold him hostage.
News reached Washington early Sunday. The news was that two of Aidid's lieutenants were captured, two helicopters were down, lots of lead was flying, and some of the soldiers were stuck inside the city. Clinton and the rest of America were ignorant of the drama in Mogadishu.
Rescuers arrived at Durant's crash to find no sign of the pilots and crew men. They stayed at the site until Super Six Four was a ball of flame. Back at the first crash site rescuers were trying to free Wolcott from the wreckage. The dead were placed on top of the APCs and the wounded were loaded inside them. The vehicles did not move. The men were trying to retrieve Wolcott's body from the wreckage.
Daylight was breaking. At 5:45 A.M. everything was done and it was time to pull out, but there was not enough room for all of the Rangers and D-boys. The drivers took off and left some behind. They attempted to keep up with the trucks but were left behind. Somalis were dragging Americans' bodies through the streets. Dead bodies lay everywhere. Walls were stained with blood. Charred vehicles were on the streets and in alley ways. The rescued arrived at a soccer stadium. Doctors were treating the wounded on the field. One by one they were flown to the army hospital or back to the hanger.
Americans awakened Monday morning to news reports of the fight in Somalia. It still did not receive high status. The early reports said at least five soldiers were dead. Later in the day higher numbers and graphic images were aired.
The men holding Michael Durant hostage asked if he would make a videotape. He said no, but they showed up with a camera crew anyway. He explained he was not an American Ranger but a pilot. The world saw the tape the next day. A doctor came in to tend his wounds after the camera crew left. Then he was moved to a different location.
The public grew aware of the situation in Mogadishu and were outraged. Congress was demanding withdrawal. In a six hour meeting on Wednesday it was clear that America would not pursue Aidid or his men any further. The United States would completely withdraw by March 1994. A message that the President of the United States wanted the pilot released immediately was sent to Aidid.
After a few days had passed Durant's fear of being executed or tortured had eased. He was given a small radio that he could listen to the BBC World Service on. He received a visitor after five days of captivity. She was allowed to write a letter for Durant. Then two reporters came in. In the second week of Durant's captivity, he was moved again. He was given a box from the Red Cross. He made notes of his captivity in a pocket Bible he found in the box.
Aidid was told that President Clinton had demanded Mike Durant's release, unconditionally. The Somalis wanted to make a trade for some of their men. A message saying that if Durant was not released forces would come in after him and decimate the city. Aidid agreed to hand Durant over.
The next morning Durant was washed. He was gently placed into the vehicle that took him to Red Cross officials. It had been eleven days since he had entered Mogadishu for what was supposed to be a mission that would last only an hour. A doctor examined him and he was given a letters from his wife, Lorrie, and his parents. He held them tightly.
The American survivors of the Battle of Mogadishu would be home within a month. Most did not agree with the decision to call off their mission. Eighteen men had been killed and seventy-three were injured. Durant was the only man to survive from the Super Six Four crew. Several months later all of the captured Somalis were released.
I enjoyed how each of the boys' stories was included in the book. The author did not forget the individuals who fought in the mission. I believe that Mike Durant wanted to open America's eyes to the realities of the fight in Mogadishu. This was even better accomplished when a movie, based on his book, was released in January 2002. At times I did find the book hard to follow. There were a lot of things going on at once and the story seemed to jump around. Overall, I enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing the movie.
Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down A Story of Modern War. Penguin Group. New York, 2000.