Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Heroes Under Fire: Gary Gordon, Randall Shughart, and the Battle of Mogadishu


Devastated by civil war and widespread starvation, Somalia was in desperate need of help in the fall of 1993. Efforts by the United Nations to send in humanitarian aid to the embattled country had begun a year earlier, but as journalist Mark Bowden writes, “Almost right away, militias led by the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid began attacking and killing U.N. peacekeepers.” Commanded by Major General William F. Garrison, Task Force Ranger, which was composed of elite U.S. Army, Air Force, and Naval special operations units, was deployed to Somalia to help protect the humanitarian efforts and to combat power-hungry warlords like Aidid.


On the afternoon of October 3, 1993, Delta Force operators, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Air Force Combat Control Technicians hit the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia. Their mission, which would ultimately involve around 160 troops, 19 aircraft, and 12 vehicles, was to raid a white three-story house in the city and arrest two of Aidid’s top lieutenants. The snatch-and-grab mission was only expected to take about an hour and started well. American forces succeeded in apprehending the primary target and Aidid’s chief spokesman, but the operation developed into a nightmare as Somali militia and armed civilians aggressively engaged the Americans in some of the fiercest urban combat since the Vietnam War.

American troops near the target building on October 3, 1993. This is the only photo taken from the ground during the battle. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Somali insurgents managed to shoot down two Black Hawk helicopters, Super Six One and Super Six Four, with rocket-propelled grenades. As Bowden explains, “When about 90 U.S. Rangers and Delta force operators rushed to the rescue, they were caught in an intense exchange of gunfire and trapped overnight.” Over the long and uneasy hours of darkness, American troops battled for their lives against thousands of heavily-armed Somalis until a multinational rescue convoy arrived and extricated them the following morning.

The 18-hour Battle of Mogadishu claimed the lives of 18 Americans and left more than seventy badly wounded. Hundreds of Somalis were also killed. Among the fallen Americans were two remarkable Delta Force soldiers who gave their lives for their brothers on the battlefield.


While providing sniper cover from their hilo, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart learned that American troops on the ground were not immediately available to secure the second Black Hawk crash site. Despite the large number of Somali insurgents moving towards the target, the two operators unhesitatingly volunteered to enter the hornet’s nest to protect any wounded at the crash site. The situation on the ground was so dangerous that it took three requests for Gordon and Shughart to finally receive permission allowing them to go in.

Army Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart (left) and Army Master Sergeant Gary Gordon. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army/Department of Defense)


Enemy fire around the downed chopper was so intense that Gordon and Shughart had to be inserted 100 meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only their sniper rifles and pistols, the two operators fought their way to the target. Three of the four members of Super Six Four did not survive the crash, but Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant was found alive. Gordon pulled the badly wounded pilot from the wreckage and then formed a perimeter around the chopper with Shughart.


Fighting from the most vulnerable position, the two Delta Force soldiers took down Somali insurgents as they rushed the crash site. After expending his ammunition, Gordon recovered more weapons and ammo from the wrecked chopper. Gordon also stocked Durant, who was still dazed from the crash, with the tools to fight before radioing for help.

Gordon and Shughart continued to stand their ground against mounting numbers of Somalis. The odds became even more daunting after Shughart was fatally wounded. After running out of ammo again, Gordon made another dash for the downed chopper and recovered a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition. He gave the rifle to Durant and told him, “good luck.” Fighting until the very end with only a pistol, Gordon was also fatally wounded. After the two operators went down, the crash site was overrun. Michael Durant was taken hostage and released after about two weeks.


The heroic actions of Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart on October 3 ultimately saved Michael Durant’s life. Just as they fought and died together, the two operators were honored together as well. On May 23, 1994, Gordon and Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration for valor under fire. Their respective citations read as follows:

Master Sgt. Gary Gordon: "Master Sergeant Gordon, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Master Sergeant Gordon's sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Master Sergeant Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Master Sergeant Gordon used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Master Sergeant Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew's weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Master Sergeant Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Master Sergeant Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, "good luck." Then, armed only with his pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot's life. Master Sergeant Gordon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army."

Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart: "Sergeant First Class Shughart, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Sergeant First Class Shughart provided precision sniper fires from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. While providing critical suppressive fires at the second crash site, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site. Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader were inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sergeant First Class Shughart used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sergeant First Class Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot's life. Sergeant First Class Shughart's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army."



Sources


Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden.


Smithsonian Magazine: The Legacy of Black Hawk Down.


U.S. Department of Defense: Medal of Honor Monday - Army Master Sergeant Gary Gordon.


  • instagram
  • twitter
  • youtube
  • linkedin
  • facebook

©2016 BY THIS IS WHY WE STAND. PROUDLY CREATED WITH WIX.COM