Throughout the history of the United States, there have been many people who have responded to the call of duty and paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms that we hold so dear and in many cases take for granted in today’s society. While we talk about these people generally, there are many that we never hear the stories or in many cases, the names of. In this article, I will talk about the many heroes of the United States Delta Force who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend their fellow soldier in Operation Restore Hope.
In 1992, the United States lead a United Nations task force into Somalia in order to protect trade routes which brought food supplies to the people of the impoverished nation. This operation, which sent 25,000 United States soldiers to the East African nation, was called Operation Restore Hope, and was one of the last actions of President George H.W. Bush. However, once President Clinton took office in 1993, the mission became more about creating peace in Somalia and scaling down the civil war they were in the midst of, rather than protecting Somalian food supplies. Clinton also wanted to scale down the presence of U.S. soldiers in Somalia, pulling out the majority of the troops and leaving only a small contingent amount of 1,200 men. Around this point, tensions began to escalate in the war torn nation, as multiple attacks were carried out against the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Somalia. After there were multiple attacks, first against the Pakistani forces which killed 14 soldiers, then later against the United States in which 8 military police were killed, and lastly an attack on 4 western journalists who were beaten to death by a Somali crowd, the UN put a bounty on the main clan leader and self-proclaimed president Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Following this, the United States sent the elite Task Force Ranger into Somalia in order to capture Aidid. These elite forces were under the command of General William Garrison. General Garrison then ordered a mission into the city of Mogadishu to capture high ranking lieutenants of Aidid. This plan however was ill equipped as when they asked for reinforcements, they were denied by the Department of Defense.
The initial plan was to drop the Task Force Ranger in via helicopter to secure the Olympic Hotel where the lieutenants would be meeting and capture them. Then a convoy of ground vehicles would come in and extract the prisoners from the compound and bring the troops back to base. The plan had problems from the beginning when PFC Todd Blackburn fell out of his helicopter while roping in and was evacuated to the convoy with severe injuries to his neck. The Delta Forces were able to accomplish their mission of capturing the lieutenants, however unbeknownst to them; the battle had only just begun. A UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter by the codename “Super-Six One” was hit in the tail rotor by a rocket propelled grenade (or RPG) and crashed in the city. The Rangers were then ordered to make their way to the crash site and secure it until the crew, surviving or killed in action, could be evacuated. The team managed to make their way to the crash site and set up a perimeter while the Combat Search and Rescue teams could retrieve the crew of the downed helicopter. While this was going on, a second Black Hawk Helicopter, “Super-Six Four” was shot down in another area of the city. It was at this time where two men, whose story is inspirational as they sacrificed everything for their brothers in arms.
When the second Black Hawk was shot down, two Delta force snipers, by the names of Sergeant First Class Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart volunteered to move in by themselves and secure the second crash site. On their third request, they were allowed to move in and set up a defensive perimeter around the crash site. When they moved in they found only one survivor, the pilot of Super 64, Chief Warrant Officer third class Michael Durant, who was returning fire to the enemy combatants who stormed the crash site. The two Delta Force operators were able to hold off the ensuing mob for a brief amount of time before they were killed. CW3 Durant was taken prisoner by Aidid’s forces and released after eleven days in captivity. MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton, becoming the first recipients of this award since the Vietnam War.
The ensuing Urban battle around the first crash site would last throughout the night until a combined armored force of Pakistani and Malaysian armored units were sent in to evacuate the US soldiers. They would eventually make it to the rendezvous point where they would go to the Pakistani held stadium. In total there were 18 Americans dead and 73 wounded. There was also 1 Pakistani soldier killed and 7 injured and 1 Malaysian killed and 2 injured. On the Somali side, there was anywhere from 200-500 dead and possibly up to 800 wounded between militiamen and civilians. While this was a tactical United States victory as the entirety of the mission objectives were achieved, there was enormous amounts of fallout politically from the event, which caused the United States to pull their forces out of Somalia by 1994. By 1995 the United Nations pulled their forces out of Somalia. Their story was interpreted in the 2001 film titled “Black Hawk Down”.
While there is much debate over whether we should have been in Somalia, whether the strike was warranted or whether the mission was a success, we should pause to remember that our soldiers are always there to defend us and our way of life. We should remember those men who died on that day, for they died so that we can enjoy freedom and peace at home. We should never forget those who have fought in general for their service to our great nation is a gift to us, the people of America.