Megan Krementowski

October 3rd and 4th, 1993 mark the dates of the Battle of Mogadishu also known as the Day of the Rangers. The battle was fought by forces of the United States supported by the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOMII) and Somali militiamen loyal to Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in January of 1991 by a coalition of opposing clans, known as the United Somalia Congress. Shortly after the revolution, the coalition divided into two groups, one led by Ali Mahdi and the other by Mohammed Farah Aidid. Aidid would eventually become Somalia’s self-declared president, remaining in power until his death in 1996.

On this day, U.S. Army forces in Mogadishu attempted to seize two of Aidid’s high ranking lieutenants during a meeting in the capitol. After the attack, Somali militia and armed civilian forces shot down two American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The succeeding raid that began as a one-hour operation to secure and recover the crews of both helicopters turned into an overnight battle in Mogadishu.

The battle resulted in the death of 24 Pakistanis, 19 U.S. soldiers, and 500‒1,000 Somalis. According to American sources, American forces suffered 18 deaths, 73 wounded, and one helicopter pilot captured. At least one Pakistani soldier and one Malaysian soldier were killed as part of the rescue forces. There are varied reports pointing to an estimated 1,500 to 3,000 Somali casualties, including civilians.

 

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The crew of Super 64 one month before the Battle of Mogadishu by Phil Lepre.

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Marines search a Mogadishu market for hidden weapons prior to the Battle. Photo via Flat World Knowledge.

The number of Somali deaths was a highly controversial issue. For example, Rutherford reported 500 deaths and 700 wounded in Humanitarianism Under Fire: The US and UN Intervention in Somalia. Other sources, such as Luke Glanville’s “Somalia Reconsidered: An Examination of the Norm of Humanitarian Intervention” in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance provide a figure of 500–1,000.

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Photo via thepolitic.org. 

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A U.S. Marine watches the streets of Mogadishu. (AFP Photo/ Eric Cabanis)

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Image via The Times.

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Solders from Co. A's 2nd Platoon. Photo via Soldiers Magazine. 

In 2002, Hollywood film Black Hawk Down attempted to depict the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, but opened too much controversy in the process. Based on the best-selling book by Mark Bowden, the film depicts the battle as a story of American heroism. However, it has been stated that American involvement in Somalia at this time did not make matters better. In an NPR article, Bowden is quoted saying, “We had gotten to a point... where we kind of thought that we could intervene militarily without getting hurt, without our soldiers getting killed. The incident that I call Black Hawk Down certainly disabused us of that.”

Criticism of the film focused on the idea that the events were portrayed only through American soldiers’ point of view with no Somali character shown in a positive light.

In her article, “Black Hawk Down: naked propaganda masquerading as entertainment,” Ann Talbot wrote: “At the time [the Battle of Mogadishu] was widely understood as a humiliating defeat for the US military. The few seconds of film CNN screened showing the mutilated body of an American soldier being dragged through the streets shocked the US public, who could not understand why these young Americans had been sent to Mogadishu. CNN had 40 minutes of film from a Somali stringer. It showed only 30 seconds and of that only 2.5 seconds included the dead soldier. So powerful was this image, however, which was of a very different kind to the slick Hollywood depiction of death and injury shown by (Ridley) Scott, that it made the use of ground troops on this scale politically impossible for almost a decade.”

Somalia’s most important literary figure and Warscapes advisory board member, Nuruddin Farah, wrote his novel Links about his return to Mogadishu for the first time in twenty years. In an article for the Guardian, he said that in Links he wanted to offer an alternative angle on “Black Hawk Down.”

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Megan Krementowski is an editorial intern at Warscapes.

 

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