Operation Gothic Serpent
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger, U.S. Special Operations Forces composed mainly of Bravo Company 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D; better known as "Delta Force") operators, and aviation support from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) ("The Night Stalkers"), attempted to capture Aidid's foreign minister, Omar Salad Elmi, and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale.
The plan was to fast rope from hovering MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, capture the targets, and load them onto a ground convoy for transport back to the U.S. compound. Four Ranger chalks commanded by Captain Michael Steele, also inserted by helicopter, were to provide a secure square perimeter on the four corners of the operation's target building.
The ground extraction convoy was supposed to reach the captive targets a few minutes after the beginning of the operation. However, it ran into delays. Somali citizens and local militia formed barricades along the streets of Mogadishu with rocks and burning tires, blocking the convoy from reaching the Rangers and their captives. A five-ton truck, part of the convoy, was struck by an RPG-7 rocket, inflicting fatal wounds to MSG Tim "Griz" Martin.
Other complications arose. A Ranger was seriously injured during the insertion. PFC Todd Blackburn fell while fast roping from a helicopter hovering 70 feet (21 m) above the streets. Minutes later, a MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Super 61 piloted by CW3 Cliff Wolcott, was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade.
A Combat Search and Rescue team, led by TSgt Scott Fales of the Air Force Pararescuemen, were able to rope down to Super 61's crash site despite an RPG hit that crippled their helicopter. They found the pilots dead and five injured inside the Black Hawk. Under intense fire, the team removed the injured to a nearby collection point, where they built a make-shift shelter for the wounded using Kevlar floorboards from the Black Hawk.
There was confusion between the ground convoy and the assault team. The assault team and the ground convoy waited for twenty minutes just out of sight of each other, ready to move, but each under the impression that they were to be first contacted by the other. During the wait, a second Black Hawk helicopter, Super 64 piloted by CW3 Michael Durant, was downed.
Most of the assault team went to the first crash site for a rescue operation. Upon reaching the site, about 90 Rangers found themselves under siege from heavy militia fire. Despite air support, the Rangers were effectively trapped for the night. With a growing number of wounded needing shelter, the Rangers occupied several nearby houses taking the residents prisoner. Outside, a stiff breeze stirred up blinding brown clouds of dust.
The local SNA commander, Colonel Sharif Hassan Giumale, decided to call for a mortar bombardment of the houses occupied by the Rangers. Giumale requested a "half dozen" 60 mm mortars crews. The information that civilians were being held captive changed his plans.
At the second crash site, two Delta snipers, SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon, were inserted by helicopter (at their own request, permission was denied twice by Command but granted when they persisted and made a third request) to protect the injured crew from the approaching mob. Both snipers were later killed when the site was overrun by Somali militiamen. The Black Hawk's pilot, CW3 Michael Durant, who was seriously injured in the crash, was taken hostage. For their actions, Shughart and Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Repeated attempts by the Somalis to mass forces and overrun the American positions in a series of firefights near the crash sites were neutralized by aggressive small arms fire and by strafing and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter gunships of the Nightstalkers, the only air support equipped to operate at night. The Somali National Alliance militia casualties were reported as 700 killed and about 1000 wounded. However, an eyewitness to the battle says the recovery parties for the SNA dead in the vicinity of the Olympic Hotel would indicate about 60.
A relief convoy of men from Task Force 2-14 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, aided by Malaysian and Pakistani UN forces, arrived in the early morning. No contingency planning or coordination with UN forces had been arranged prior to the operation; consequently, the recovery of the surrounded U.S. soldiers was significantly complicated and delayed. Determined to protect all members of the rescue convoy, Gen. Garrison made sure to roll out in force. When the convoy finally pushed into the city, it consisted of more than 100 vehicles including Malaysian forces' German made Condor APCs, four Pakistani tanks, American Humvees and several five-ton flatbed trucks. This two mile long column was supported by several other Black Hawks and Cobra assault helicopters stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. The "Little Birds" of Task Force Ranger (TFR) continued their defense of the downed crew and rescuers of Super 61 throughout the night, the Night Stalkers being some of the only pilots trained and practiced in nighttime flying.
The battle was over by October 4, 1993, at 6:30 AM. American forces were finally evacuated to the UN Pakistani base by the armored convoy and the "Mogadishu Mile." In all, 18 U.S. soldiers died of wounds from the battle and another 83 were injured. After the battle, the bodies of several US casualties of the conflict, members of the Black Hawk "Super 64" crew and their protectors, Delta Operators MSG Shughart and SFC Gordon, were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by crowds of local civilians and SNA forces. The Malaysian forces lost one soldier and had seven injured, while the Pakistanis suffered two injured. Casualties on the Somali side were heavy, with estimates on fatalities ranging from 315 to over 2,000 people. The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen and local civilians. Somali civilians suffered heavy casualties due to the dense urban character of that portion of Mogadishu. Two days later, a mortar round fell on the U.S. compound, killing one U.S. soldier, SFC Matt Rierson, and injuring another twelve.