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5 Important Things to Know About the Real-Life Black Hawk Down

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The Battle of Mogadishu, which inspired the book and film titled “Black Hawk Down,” occurred 23 years ago this week. In an operation that was supposed to go rather simply, Army Rangers and Delta Force troops were assigned to capture top lieutenants of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. As they were being taken away after their mission was complete, rocket-propelled grenade fire downed two Black Hawk helicopters and turned the theoretically quick capture mission into an overnight rescue mission.

As we remember this important day in American military history, here are 5 things you maybe didn’t know about the real-life events.

1) There is footage of the first helicopter crashing

In this brief clip from "60 Minutes," we see footage of the Black Hawk helicopters landing in clouds of dust to drop off soldiers at the start of their mission. Then, we see the first helicopter just after it was hit, spiraling towards the ground before crashing. Right before it cuts, we can hear someone yelling, “We got a Black Hawk down!”

2) The battle was never supposed to happen

As mentioned before, the mission to capture terrorist leaders was supposed to be quick and clean. The soldiers captured the two men they were supposed to as well as some other militants. But heavy fire from an angry crowd of Somalis was preventing them from leaving. About 40 minutes after the mission started, the first Black Hawk was hit, and a second was downed soon after. Rescue teams were sent in but got pinned down themselves, and a mission originally intended to be quick instead lasted 15 hours. (via)

3) The Medal of Honor was given to two servicemen posthumously

Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart were given posthumous Medal of Honor awards for their bravery. The two soldiers were providing sniper covering fire from a helicopter for the second crash site where pilot Michael Durant was still alive but pinned down. After twice being denied permission to be inserted to hold back an advancing mob, they were eventually allowed to land. Along with their helicopter, they inflicted heavy casualties on the mob until eventually they were overrun and killed. These were the first Medal of Honor awards given out since the Vietnam War. (via) (via)

4) The pilot of the second crashed Black Hawk, Michael Durant, was held captive.

After Gordon and Shughart were killed, the approaching mob overran the second crash site and almost killed Durant before he was claimed as a prisoner by members of the Aidid militia. He survived for eleven days in custody until he was eventually released. He would go on to write a book about his experiences in 2003, called "In the Company of Heroes." He was even a part of the Bush-Cheney Veteran’s Team in 2004. (via)

5) 18 American soldiers were killed

It's not exactly a hidden fact, but very important nonetheless. Eighteen American soldiers were killed as a result of the helicopter crashes and during the ensuing rescue. The political and military fallout was immediate. Pictures of the killed soldiers being dragged through the streets hit the airwaves in the U.S and increased pressure on the Clinton administration to pull troops out of Somalia. Also, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin faced immense criticism and eventually resigned due in part to the overall mission in Somalia. (via)

So as you go about the rest of your day, remember the brave soldiers who took part in the Battle of Mogadishu, and say a prayer for not only those who died, but those who survived as well. 

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