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Battle of Mogadishu

— Somalian Civil War — Operation Restore Hope — Operation Gothic Serpent

Mike Durant's helicopter Super 64 heading out over Mogadishu on October 3, 1993.

Operation Gothic Serpent: ‘Irene’
Somalian Civil War


October 3–4, 1993 (15 hours duration)



Operation Restore Hope


Capture of Mohamed Farrah Aidid's lieutenants


Aidid's Foreign Minister Omar Salad
Aidid's Top Political Advisor Mohammed Hassan Awale
Located in Mogadishu's Bakkara Market


Capture of Habr Gidr clan leaders.
Military defeat of Task Force Ranger. [1] (PDF document)
Destruction of two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
18 American casualties.
73 wounded American soldiers.
Opposing parties
Assaulters Defendants
U.S. Special Operations Forces Mogadishu local militia and citizens
Gen. William Garrison
Joint Task Force Command Center
Unknown, local militia
160 more than 2,000 (city)
18 350-700 (estimated)
American units involved in the battle
10th Mountain Division
Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Delta Force
Navy SEALs
Night Stalkers

On October 3, 1993 Operation Code Irene of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) turned out to be the most intensive close combat that Americans had engaged in since the Vietnam War. The operation ocurred in Somalia, Africa as part of Operation Gothic Serpent; with the primary mission of capturing two lieutenants of the Somalian warlord General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The events were later baptized as the Battle of Mogadishu by the international media.

The operation started wrongfully, as a U.S. Army Ranger fell from a helicopter hovering at 70 feet above the streets of the Somalian capital city of Mogadishu. Minutes later, it turned into a military disaster, with the prelude of the now famous military phrase “Black Hawk Down” after two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by local militia. The firefight resulted in the death of 18 American soldiers and more than 350 local Somali militia and citizens.

In 1999, writer Mark Bowden published the book ‘Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War’ which chronicles the events that sorrounded the battle. The book was later turned into a film by director Ridley Scott in 2000.

Table of contents
1 General information of the operation
2 Military procedure for the operation
3 Operation timeline
4 American casualties
5 The book and the movie
6 Links with al-Qaida
7 External links
8 References

General information of the operation

U.S. Special Operations Forces compromised mainly of Rangerss and Delta Force (1st SFOD-D) operators, attempted to capture Aidid's foreign minister Omar Salad and top political advisor Mohamed Hassan Awale. The operation code to start the mission was ‘Irene’ — once the Joint Task Force Command Center (JTFCC) of the operation passed the code to the officers, these shouted “Irene!” to the soldiers waiting for orders inside the crafts and other vehicles.

The context of the battle was the armed intervention of the United Nations (UN) to provide food aid, and breaking the military siege and starvation of Aidid's opponents.

The operation lasted almost 15 hours, when the mission to capture the militia leaders was thrown off course. One of the supporting Black Hawk helicopters was shot down during a long delay after the operation's mission was effectively completed.

A Humvee extraction convoy was supposed to reach the now captive targets, a few minutes after the operation's beginning; while four Rangers chalks provided a secure square perimeter on the four corners of the operation's target building. Unfortunately for the U.S. forces, Somalian citizens and local militia formed barricades along the streets of Mogadishu with rocks and turned on fire tires; blocking the convoy of reaching the Rangers and the captive targets.

Both sides of the U.S. forces, the assault team and the convoy, waited for twenty minutes just out of sight of the other, ready to move, but each under the impression that they were to be first contacted by the other. At that time, a second Black Hawk was also downed and two Delta Force snipers, Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, landed to protect the wounded pilot from the approaching mob. Both soldiers were later killed by the mob. Shughart and Gordon received the postomous Medal of Honor for their heroic action on the battle, as they both unhesitatingly volunteered to be dropped on the ground, against the JTFCC advice to remain on their helicopters, knowing the magnitude of the mob and the risk of the insertion.

Eventually reaching the first crash sites, about 90 Rangers found themselves under siege from heavy militia fire. Despite limited air support, the Rangers were effectively trapped for the night, until reinforcements aided by Malaysian and Pakistani UN forces arrived in the early morning. No contingency planning or coordination with other UN forces had been done in anticipation of any operational difficulties, which complicated the rapid recovery of U.S. military personnel, as unconventional contigency troops had only a few hours to organize.

The battle was one of the most intense urban battles faced by the U.S. forces during the Somalian UN mission and is often cited as the reason behind America's withdrawal from UN peacekeeping duties.

Rangers under fire in a Somali street near Irene's target building on October 3, 1993.
U.S. Army Rangers Photo

According to the soldiers interviewed and quoted in the book, as the battle progressed, Aidid's forces used civilians pushed out in front of their fighters as a screen. However, these civilian screens reduced, after the Americans soldiers showed repeatedly that they were willing to fire and kill the screening civilians in order to reach their opponents.

The day after, on October 4 at 6:30 AM, American forces were finally evacuated to the UN Pakinasti Stadium. Eighteen men were dead, 73 injured.

Military procedure for the operation

  1. 160th SOAR will provide air support for the operation:
    • MH-60 Black Hawks
    • MH-6 Little Birds
  2. Infiltration:
    • Task Force Ranger (TFR) will fast-rope rapel from Black Hawk helicopters, providing perimeter security on 4 corners of the main target building.
    • 1st SFOD-D will insert on main target building from Little Birds.
  3. Capture of live targets.
  4. Exfiltration:
    • TFR Humvee convoy will extract all personnel.
    • 160th SOAR will provide escort security from air.

Chalk Four Ranger returns to base after a mission in Somalia, 1993.
U.S. Army Rangers Photo

Operation timeline

Main article:
Timeline of the Battle of Mogadishu.

American casualties

; Delta Force operators

MSG Gary Gordon - Medal of Honor
SFC Randy Shughart - Medal of Honor

; Night Stalkers
CW4 Raymond Frank - Silver Star
CW4 Clifton Wolcott - Distinguished Flying Cross
CW3 Donovan Briley
SSG William Cleveland
SSG Thomas Field

B Co-3/75 in Somalia, 1993
U.S. Army Rangers Photo

; Task Force Rangers

SGT James Joyce - Bronze Star
SGT Dominick Pilla
SGT Lorenzo Ruiz
CPL James Cavaco
CPL James 'Jamie' Smith
PFC Richard Kowalewski

; Unclassified (not disclosed)
MSG Timothy Martin
SFC Earl Fillmore
SFC Matthew Rierson
SSG Daniel Busch

; Combat Search and Rescue force
SGT Cornell Houston (C Company 41st Engineer Battalion) - Bronze Star with V device & Purple Heart
PFC James Martin (A Company, 2nd Battalion, 14 Infantry Regiment) - Purple Heart

The book and the movie

A film by Ridley Scott, based on the book ‘Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War’ by Mark Bowden, describes the events surrounding the operation and some of the acts of bravery seen on that day. There are obvious differences between the book and the subsequent movie, which left out central sections and themes of the books, such as the involvement of civilians in the battle, and de-emphasized the key decision to stay in the area after the initial operation was completed, among others.

Links with al-Qaida

There have been allegations that Usama Bin Laden's al-Qaida movement was involved in training Aidid's men. According to CNN, al-Qaida claimed to supply a large numbers of RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) to Aidid's fighters.

External links

Former combatants websites



  1. Bowden, Mark (March 1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Atlantic Monthly Press. Berkeley, California (USA).


  1. Day, Clifford (March 1997). Critical analysis on the defeat of Task Force Ranger (research paper). Air Command and Staff College Research Department. US Department of Defense. United States of America.