Many of the 120 soldiers who set out for the heart of Mogadishu 25 years ago were among the best the nation had to offer.
They were operators from Fort Bragg’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, better known as Delta Force, along with Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and pilots and crewmen from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
None of them could have predicted what would happen on that daring daytime mission to capture high-ranking lieutenants of a Somali warlord, Mohammed Farrah Aidid, who had been keeping humanitarian relief from starving Somalis.
Intended to be a brief mission, lasting about an hour, it would become the Battle of Mogadishu, now commonly remembered as “Black Hawk Down.”
The mission became an overnight standoff and rescue operation when Aidid’s supporters shot down two U.S. Army helicopters and attacked those sent to the rescue.
Nineteen soldiers were killed in the battle, including six from Fort Bragg’s Delta Force.
Two of those soldiers, Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, posthumously received the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, the Medal of Honor. The men were killed while selflessly defending the crew of one of the crashed helicopters.
At Fort Bragg, Gordon and Shughart are honored as the namesakes of two schools. Another tribute to the battle, a piece of one of the downed aircraft, is on display at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.
In the years following the battle on Oct. 3, 1993, author Mark Bowden introduced much of the nation to the heroes of the battle through his best-selling 1999 book, “Black Hawk Down.” Two years later, it the basis for the Academy Award-winning movie.
The Fayetteville Observer caught up with Bowden to look back on how he came to write the definitive account of the battle and what he believes has become the legacy of “Black Hawk Down.” The conversation below has been edited for length.
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