The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts from the Men of Task Force Ranger

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It started as a mission to capture a Somali warlord. It turned into a disastrous urban firefight and death-defying rescue operation that shocked the world and rattled a great nation. Now the 1993 battle for Mogadishu, Somalia - the incident that was the basis of the book and film Black Hawk Down - is remembered by the men who fought and survived it. Six of the best in our military recall their brutal experiences and brave contributions in these never-before-published ...
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Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts from the Men of Task Force Ranger

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Overview

It started as a mission to capture a Somali warlord. It turned into a disastrous urban firefight and death-defying rescue operation that shocked the world and rattled a great nation. Now the 1993 battle for Mogadishu, Somalia - the incident that was the basis of the book and film Black Hawk Down - is remembered by the men who fought and survived it. Six of the best in our military recall their brutal experiences and brave contributions in these never-before-published first-person accounts.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This collection provides enthralling reading about a sad chapter in American military history.”
--Richmond Times-Dispatch

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345459657
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/3/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Eversmann and Dan Schilling, along with Tim Wilkinson, Mike Kurth, Raleigh Cash, and John Belman, were Army Rangers and Air Force spec ops personnel in the task force involved in the battle in Mogadishu.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

OPERATION GOTHIC SERPENT

Matt Eversmann

There were four blocking positions used by Task Force Ranger to surround the target building. Matt Eversmann was in charge of one of them, Blocking Position 4. The twenty-six-year-old staff sergeant had twelve Rangers assigned to his squad that day. There were several three-story buildings around the target, and Eversmann and his men would have to insert by fast rope. They were charged with setting the blocking position on the northwest corner of the target. Their job was very straightforward: isolate the target building so that no enemy could get in or out.

Most of all I remember the smell, that godawful, nasty smell. As soon as the ramp of the plane cracked open, that sick smell swept through the entire aircraft. It was disgusting-kind of like sulfur and something pretty rotten mixed on top. The smell, that lingering scent of burning garbage and who knows what, combined with the African heat was my welcome to Mogadishu, Somalia.

On August 26, 1993, I arrived at a small airfield on the Horn of Africa as part of a task force of soldiers who were given the mission to capture a local Somali warlord named Mohammad Farrah Aidid. At the time, I was a young staff sergeant with about five years' worth of experience in the Army. My first four years of service were spent in Watertown, New York, with the Tenth Mountain Division, and I had been with the Ranger Regiment only since March 1992. In my seventeen months of training with the regiment, I had deployed all over the world. We trained with the British Parachute Regiment in the United Kingdom. We traveled to South Korea to experience the harsh Korean winters and mountainous terrain. We even trained with the Thai Rangers in Lop Buri, Thailand. We traveled all over the globe to develop our combat skills. Now, after five years of good, hard training, I was on my way to battle.

Between August and October 2, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted six combat missions. On our thirty-eighth day in country, we conducted our seventh and what would be our final mission. We launched a raid from our base at the Mogadishu airfield on Sunday, October 3, at around 1530 hours. That mission would go down in history as the fiercest ground combat seen by American forces since the Tet offensive in 1968. During what would become known to the men there as the Battle of the Black Sea, eighteen soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice, and some seventy others were wounded in action, many seriously. The killing resumed when one member of Task Force Ranger died during a mortar attack a few days later, on October 6. Much has been written and plenty said about that mission. I have read and heard about as much as I can about it and am convinced about one thing and only one thing: that mission-that horrifying event, that brutal experience, that episode of complete savagery-will be, without exception, one of the finest examples of American tenacity, selfless service, courage, and commitment ever witnessed in modern times.

Most soldiers, and infantrymen in particular, live with one question all the days that they wear a uniform. It doesn't matter if they are newly commissioned second lieutenants from the school on the banks of the Hudson or eighteen-year-old high school graduates right out of basic training. Somewhere deep inside their psyche, every single man who joins the infantry wants to know how he will react when the bullets start flying. When you get right down to it, I do not think I have ever met a man who didn't want to go to war in some way, shape, or form. Many wax philosophical about the thought of combat and all that it entails, but I've never met a guy who, deep down, didn't want to go for the test. Why else would men subject themselves to the endless hours of training? Why would they put up with the long periods of separations from loved ones? Why would they suffer for the low pay and the stress? Why would they push themselves to the extreme day after day? I can think of only one reason: to go to war, to get a shot at the title, to pass the final exam-whatever cliché one uses to describe battle. That's what soldiers do, I thought; that's why we exist, to go to war and win. At least, that is how I looked at it in 1993.

In December 1989 I was waking up at Fort Benning, Georgia, two-thirds of the way through Ranger School. My class had come back to Benning from the swamps of Florida to begin our two-week exodus for the Christmas holiday. Bright and early on the morning of December 21, 1989, the commander of the Ranger Training Brigade held a formation. With no introduction he said, "Last night we invaded Panama. The regiment jumped in to seize an airfield. Several casualties were reported." I was in shock. At that time, so early in my career, I didn't know too much about the 75th Ranger Regiment. I knew enough to know that if there was a fight anywhere in the world, the Rangers would be the first ones to go.

I fully expected that my unit, the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, had already been called to action, and I was upset that I was not with them. But I soon found out that all my mates were still in Watertown, away from the fight. We would have to wait for the next one. Interestingly enough, a couple of my Ranger buddies actually signed out of the Ranger Training Brigade for leave and wound up deploying to Panama for some follow-on operations with the regiment, resuming the last phase of Ranger School later on. I was amazed at their mettle: go off to war, do the mission, and then return to school. The word impressive hardly does justice to them.

When the Gulf War started, I was still at Fort Drum. I remember scheming with my roommate, Mike Evans, to get assigned to a unit that would surely get called to the fight. We desperately wanted to go to war, and felt stifled in the light infantry. I say this not as an indictment against the 10th Mountain Division. Not by a long shot. They were a very good unit. They just weren't suited for the mechanized, desert battle that we expected would take place an ocean away. Even though our forces would go on to decimate Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, I was still zero for two.

In November 1991 I took the plunge and reenlisted for an assignment with the Ranger regiment. I flew to Fort Benning, successfully passed the assessment course, and was assigned to the Third Battalion. There are three battalions that make up the 75th Ranger Regiment. The First Battalion (1/75) is in Savannah, Georgia, at Hunter Army Airfield, the Second Ranger Battalion (2/75) is near Seattle at Fort Lewis, and the Third (3/75), stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, would be my new home.

I remember arriving at 3/75 as a brand-new staff sergeant with absolutely no special operations experience whatsoever. Though I had been to several good Army schools-sniper, airborne, Ranger, and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school-I felt that I was still way behind the curve compared to my peers. It was pretty intimidating to assume a leadership position only to find that many of the subordinates were combat veterans of Panama. They proudly wore their combat infantryman's badge over the left breast pocket of their uniforms, and I heard the stories of the Rio Hato and Torrijos Tocumen airfield assaults that the men had been part of. Every day I would see the tiny gold stars centered on the suspension lines of their airborne wings. The "mustard stain," as we call it, signals a combat jump. They had been to the show. These men were larger than life, and I did not want to make any JV mistakes in front of them.

The best course of action for me, it seemed, was to listen and learn everything I could from these men. As I got to know the men of 3/75, I realized that they were certainly a different breed of men, a different caliber of soldier. Not necessarily better, just different. It was impressive to see young privates and specialists performing tasks that I previously would never have seen executed by anyone below the rank of sergeant first class. They were expected to perform difficult and dangerous things because that is what they would have to do in combat. Everything we did in that unit was focused on our combat mission. Young men were given a lot of responsibility and taught to be problem solvers. I heard the regimental commander, Colonel David Grange, say, "We teach these men how to think, not what to think." It was all starting to make sense.

More than anything, I was fortunate to fall ass backward into the arms of some very talented young men who took the time to help me learn the skills necessary to survive the rigors of life in the regiment. For that, I am eternally grateful.

I learned how to parachute out of airplanes in pitch darkness. We took marksmanship to a new level, and for the first time I started to really learn how to shoot my M-16. I learned how to use explosives, though I am definitely not the guy you want making the charge to blow the doors. I learned how to fast-rope out of helicopters in order to fight in an area otherwise unreachable by air. I learned how to navigate with a compass and by using the terrain. Most of all I simply . . . learned. Everything was new and everything was exciting, and I felt like sooner or later the chance would come to see if I could answer that eternal question.

Mathematically, I figured that since the First and Second Ranger Battalions had jumped into Grenada in 1983, in Panama in 1989, and Iraq in 1991, the longest I would have to wait would be five or six years. When describing the necessity of repetitive training, the command was fond of saying, "It is not a question of if we go to war, it's a question of when." Prophetic.

In August 1993, after a hellacious tour of the world, we landed in El Paso, Texas, for another training mission. On the night of a particular airborne mission, I remember that the battalion commander was not present for the parachute issue. As we rigged and began the jumpmaster inspection, someone said he'd overheard that there was a real-world mission going down and the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Danny McKnight, was receiving the warning order. I thought that was all bullshit-just wishful thinking. A little while later, as we stood around the aircraft, the night's mission was canceled and everyone was sent back to their tents.

Sometime that evening the platoon leader, First Lieutenant Tom Di-Tomasso, and the platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Chris Hardy, told us to pack our bags because Bravo Company was deploying to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That was it. No information-just pack our gear and be ready to load the aircraft when they call. It was hard to tell what was going on. It could be just an exercise from our higher command to pick a company at random and test their skills. I did not recall anything particularly disturbing in the news-at least nothing out of the daily CNN newscasts. I could not think of anything, at least nothing from the nonstop news spectrum, that might have "real-world" stamped on it. The more we thought about it, the more we thought it was probably just an exercise.

Later we loaded into a C-5 Galaxy and flew to North Carolina. In the dark of the night we arrived at an isolated site out in the middle of nowhere. It was still hard to decipher what was next for us. I figured that there was a fifty-fifty chance of a real-world deployment. After getting ourselves sorted and our gear checked, we were given the training plan. We would be doing some fast-roping from MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and quite a bit of shooting at the range. It was awesome: fly, rope, and shoot, day and night. A couple of days into the training, I was finishing up at the range with a few other Rangers when I heard a collective roar from the tents where we lived. When we arrived at the tent, Lieutenant DiTomasso told us that we were going to Somalia to catch Aidid. Here we go boys-this is it. I felt fear, excitement, disbelief, and probably every other emotion wrapped up in one as we began to plan our turn in history.

Before we left the safety and comfort of America, I remember seeing a verse of scripture chiseled into a memorial wall. It was from the book of Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 8: "And then I heard the voice of the Lord saying 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?' And I said 'Here am I, Lord, send me.' " What could possibly be more meaningful to a young soldier in preparation for a real-world mission? Selfless service, a calling to a cause greater than oneself. It was inspiring to think about joining the noble ranks of the warriors that had made the journey before me. Though I obviously had no idea what would lie ahead, that verse set the tone for me and, I believe, the entire task force. Send me, send us, we are here.

There were two plans of attack to catch Aidid. The first was to capture him while he was traveling in his convoy of cars. The second was to catch him when he was inside a building. That was it, either A or B. It made good sense to me and seemed like a very simple plan: the man would be either inside or outside. We would take him out whenever and wherever he showed himself.

The task force was broken down into three separate groups: the assault force, the blocking force, and the ground convoy. We would have an assault force of Special Forces soldiers to do the work inside the target building. Almost simultaneously the Rangers in the blocking force would set up a perimeter around the target. Finally, the Rangers in Humvees and five-ton trucks would drive through the city and link up for extraction once we had Aidid in our hands. The assault force and the blocking force would fly to the target site in MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and MH-6 Little Birds. Once at the objective we would either land or-if no landing zone was available-slide down thick nylon ropes to the street and assume our battle posture accordingly. It was pretty simple at my level, though I know that this choreography took quite some planning for the pilots, crew chiefs and command.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Operation gothic serpent 3
Sua sponte : of their own accord 37
Through my eyes 61
What was left behind 107
Be careful what you wish for 127
On friendship and firefights 157
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2004

    All the grit of the battle, straight from the guys who were there.

    Up until the film 'Black Hawk Down' came out, I was ignorant of what happened in Mogadishu in 1993. All I really remembered were some news reports about a captured pilot and American Soldiers being dragged through the streets (I was 14 years old at the time). After seeing the film, I immediately bought the book and read it in one day, soaking up the story like a sponge, and amazed that such fierce combat had taken place in our modern world. Last year, we were treated with the book 'In the Company of Heroes' by Michael Durant, the pilot who was captured. Again, I read the book in a day and soaked up any info I could. The first-hand account was amazing and I loved the way it was written. I thought that it would be really great to hear other first-hand accounts to the soldiers that were there. Yesterday, I walked into B&N and my jaw dropped to the floor... just what I had been looking for, a collection of first hand accounts from the men who were there. The book is a great read and every American should read books like this to truly appreciate what our soldiers do. It's easy to sit back and watch CNN and be an 'armchair general,' but your attitude changes a bit when you read the stories from the soldiers on the ground. They're not just troops... they're fathers, brothers, sons, and friends. They are willing to lay down their lives for the man next to them, and that's more than most people can say. A big 'Thank You' to the men who put this book together, and to the men who fought with them in Mogadishu. The first-hand accounts put you right there in the action in vivid detail. The only thing that could have made this book better would be the satellite images of Mogadishu. The 'zoomed in' images were very grainy and hard to make out, and I have seen much better satellite images of the target area and crash sites than what the book had to offer. Also, an illustration of the target building and chalk locations similar to the one in Black Hawk Down would be helpful to readers unfamiliar with the battle. All in all, this book was great and still earns 5 stars despite the satellite images.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    The first 5 chapters were exciting to read, giving a humble, his

    The first 5 chapters were exciting to read, giving a humble, historical first person account of the events on Oct. 3ed and 4th 1993. True American heroes who suffered through a long and fierce firefight in a county/city where they were surrounded and out numbered. However, because of the true American spirit and a never give up attitude, the men of Task Force Ranger not only prevailed, they won a great battle which politicians promptly gave away.

    That said, the last chapter, “On Friendship and Firefights” by Dan Schilling, was a waist of the English language. By Mr. Schilling’s account, this chapter should have been call, “Those Poor Rangers are Sure Lucky I (A Combat Controller) Was There and Saved Their Pathetic Army Asses.” By Mr. Schilling’s account, he took over the lost convoy from Colonel McKnight and saved everyone. Also, Mr. Schilling believes his training was far superior to the Rangers and Delta Operators and if they had followed Air Force Training things would have gone better. Mr. Schilling uses the word Friendship in the title to his chapter, but it was obvious he was only speaking about the other Air Force Personnel there, not the Task Force. Mr. Schilling could learn from his Air Force Teammate, Tim Wilkinson who was very humble and clearly explained how everyone worked as a team to overcome their situation. I would normally have given this book a 5 star rating, but due to Mr. Schilling’s narcissistic view, I can only give it 2 stars, and that’s being generous.

    I don’t want to take away what Mr. Schilling went through, but it would have been nice if he would have remember there were a lot of other men fighting too and none of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice were combat controllers

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    This book is told from different perspectives they are all very

    This book is told from different perspectives they are all very informative but I only found the the part told by Eversman and Kurth exciting the remaining three stories didn't make me stick to the book but like I said still informative  

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