Survival Stories #7: Black Hawk Down/The Battle of Mogadishu

August 13, 2009

I'm Cade Courtley, Navy SEAL and host of Spike TV’s Surviving Disaster. I've heard a lot of great survival accounts over the years.  However, these 10 individual narratives represent true self-preservation through instinct, and a never-say-die attitude. This list is a chronicle--a testament--of what I find most impressive in defining true individual strength and human perseverance.  These few did not just lead to legend, but more importantly and most basic, survival.

The Battle of Mogadishu, popularized in the book and film Black Hawk Down, began as a routine humanitarian mission and ended in complete disaster. The events unfolded on the afternoon of October 3, 1993, when American helicopters inserted an elite team of Delta and Army Rangers onto the busy streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. They were to be supported by a ground extraction convoy. Their mission was to obtain and incarcerate several top lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and return to base.

The mission did not go according to plan. The ground convoy was held back after coming under attack by local militia. Then two UH-60 Black Hawk attack helicopters were shot down by Somali insurgents. A Combat Search and Rescue team was roped down to rescue the five surviving soldiers aboard Super 61, the first helicopter to go down. Under intense fire, the rescue team managed to secure the injured at a nearby collection point, building a makeshift shelter for the wounded using Kevlar floorboards from the downed Black Hawk.

At the second crash site two Delta snipers, SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon, begged command to be sent in to provide ground support for the injured crew of helicopter Super 64. The men bravely fought off the encroaching militia, but ultimately lost their lives. They both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The surviving soldiers from the downed helicopters and the ground convoy became trapped in the city, unable to escape as night fell. They bravely hunkered down, watched each other’s backs, and fought off the Somali militia.

The siege ended early the following morning and the American forces were evacuated to a nearby UN base by the ground convoy. In all, 18 US soldiers died and 83 were injured. These brave men made the ultimate sacrifice to look out for their own, to help protect the United States of America, and to make the world a better, more humane place.

Stay tuned to as I’ll be unveiling the top 10 most inspiring survival stories one-by-one over the following weeks.



Want more? Check out Survival Story #8: Douglas Mawson


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