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The Mogadishu Mile: the Legend, the Fact, the Legacy

Hating the heat wave? Drinking a lot of water and still got a dusty throat? Tired of carrying your toolbox around the job site? Cheer up buddy, we don’t have it that bad. We don’t have to run the Mogadishu Mile today.

On October 3, 1993, members of various U.S. military branches participating in Operation Gothic Serpent conducted a raid in downtown Mogadishu. During the raid, a large firefight began between the American forces and irregular Somali militia. Two American helicopters were brought down and 18 American soldiers killed. The incident is known in some circles as the Battle of Mogadishu or the Battle of the Black Sea, but most Americans simply call it Black Hawk Down, the title of the 2001 movie depicting the battle (and title of Mark Bowden’s book, on which the film was based).

At the end of the movie, the 10th Mountain Division blast their way through the city, using armored vehicles borrowed from United Nations to reach strongpoint areas where members of Task Force Ranger and SFOD-D (Delta Force) have been fighting off Somali militiamen all night long. They load American dead and wounded into the vehicles along with as many troops as they can, but there just is not enough room for everyone. Some of the Delta and Ranger soldiers familiar to the audience are to walk behind the vehicles and use them for cover as the entire force shoots its way out of the city. The vehicles take off too quickly, leaving them behind, and they must run on their own to safety while occasionally dodging bullets and shooting bad guys. On their own, they fight their way to the Mogadiscio soccer stadium, where they are met by laughing children and friendly U.N. forces who tend to their wounds. This fighting withdrawal on foot, without vehicle support, became known as the “Mogadishu Mile.” The legend of the Mogadishu Mile has grown in the past decade. It is commonplace for organized 5k running events in the month of October to be named “Mogadishu Mile” runs in honor of the men who died in the battle. Likewise, military training runs in full “battle rattle” with heavy rucksacks and weapons are adopting the name, especially in high temperatures or if the trainees must carry simulated wounded troops. However, the real Mogadishu Mile did not go exactly the way that the movie makers portrayed it. Calling the retreat a “run” is an oversimplification, as the soldiers moved from cover to cover, often at a walking pace, and frequently paused to communicate and ensure that the element was staying together. Instead of going straight from the crash site to the Mogadiscio stadium, the Delta and Ranger troops actually started in the opposite direction. From the first crash site (UH60 Super 61), they had to move south to reach a rally point at the intersection of National Street and Hawlwadig Road, still in the heart of the city and only about five blocks south of the Olympic Hotel, where the raid had begun. There, they met additional tanks and armored vehicles waiting for them, and more of the men were able to transfer into vehicles. From that intersection to the soccer stadium, the combined convoy took a zigzag route out of the city center, avoiding the barricaded major roads overflowing with enemy. The actual distance traveled during the retreat from the intersection was somewhere between 4 and 4.5 kilometers, or 2.5 to 2.8 miles. For those who had started at the first crash site, the distance covered topped three miles. The dangerous retreat on foot was shared with troops from 10th Mountain who had given up their vehicle seats, as well as the SFOD-D and Rangers as portrayed in the movie.

These men had already been fighting the enemy for around 12 hours before the convoy arrived and the Mogadishu Mile began. Aside from one daring helicopter resupply run the night of October 3 (by Super 66, which barely made it back to the airfield with 3 wounded crew), the soldiers had access only to the food, water, and ammunition which they had brought with them to the initial raid. They were dehydrated before the run began, and had not slept or rested during the night. During the fight, they had carried with them their individual weapons, body armor, radios, rucksacks full of gear, helmets, and all other sorts of items, and now as they left the city they fought their way out, shouldering their weapons and using the last of their ammunition to engage targets and protect each other. Several soldiers were wounded by enemy small arms and RPG fire. Stopping to tend to them was impossible given the tactical situation, but leaving them behind was against the creed of their comrades. Without vehicles available, the wounded were helped along, and in some cases carried out by their fellow soldiers. They all fought for their lives.

So there’s a heat wave in town and the air conditioning in your truck is on the fritz. You’ve worked a hard eight-hour shift and you can’t wait to get home. When you finally do settle in front of the TV and pop open a cold one, take a second to remember the men of Delta, Task Force Ranger, and the 10th Mountain Division. It’s because of men like them that we’ve got it so easy!

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Comments (9)

  1. I love the United States and the freedoms we enjoy. I served in the army for six years and spent more than my fair share of time in Afghanistan. I used to believe what this article says at the end. That my brothers that weren’t coming home were heros protecting our freedom. Now I know that they’re only truly heros protecting their brothers/sisters. The men who died in Mogadishu, my friends who died in Afghanistan, all the men I know torn up from Iraq, they all lost their lives and mobility fighting for the military industrial complex and for Israel. Those battles and wars were for nothing more than land and power. Everyday we lose more and more freedom and our boys are dead in vain. Our brave men and women are fighting for a lie and we keep saying they’re dying for freedom. It makes me sad.

  2. Any military person who enters a war, whether it be because of imperialism, provocation or defence, enters the war because they have the courage and hope enough to stand up and fight for our country. Many wars that have existed between the USA and other countries may or may not been “our fight”, but whatever a reason for the war, men and women fight and die for us as we sit at home and criticise their place there.

    I am not by any means someone who supports the idea of war. Bloodshed and violence is not an effective way to solve problems, if you ask me. But, as it has been displayed throughout history, war is something that significicantly changes societies, politics and people, whether it be for better or for worse.

    In any event, those who fight in our wars, whether they be men or women, young or old, deserve all of the honour and respect that we can give them. Without question, these soldiers volunteer and train to go into a hostile country and fight for freedom. The soldiers can’t control why they are there. They can’t control where they go, or who they fight. That is up to their nation’s government and not the soldiers.

    In the case of Black Hawk Down, when Delta Forces and US Rangers forcefully entered Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993 at 2:49PM, they were fighting for the freedom of the nation of Somalia’s people, who were starving under the leadership of Mohammed Farrah Aidid. The people of Somalia, who had no chance of an education, of work, of peace, of food and water, were being defended by foreign military, the United States of America.

    Say what you will, but I have always and will always believe that each and every one of those soldiers who fights, bleeds and dies for our country, for those who come out dead and those who come out alive, for those left behind and those brought home, is a valiant, strong, beautiful human being.

  3. -chloe34, I think you have the wrong understanding of war. Yes, if we lived in a perfect world there would be no need for war, and there would be no conflicts, but unfortunately we dont. If the US did not exist however, the world wold be in a much worse condition than it is currently. Some of its people see America as a “big bully… always needing someone to put down” but in actuality (in contrast to some other countries) our country’s military is here for the good of it’s people and that of the world. For example the conflict in Somalia, 1992-3 (on which this website is based) if the US hadn’t gotten involved an estimated three million additional Somalis would have starved to death because of the famine induced by the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. Btw Russia is not as powerful as the US, even if it were, neither of our governments would risk becoming involved in another cold war.

  4. My Uncle Dale Pence lost his leg shortly after Normandy, he’s a brave man as were all the others that have sacrificed themselves before and since. I watched, as many of man perished without regard to who was watching or who was doing what. They were just doing as they were told and trying to make the best of it, as my uncle did. The guys we lost that day were heros,just think about those two snipers that requested to come on deck. Those two knew they were done before they hit the ground, they werent worried about their families at the time just the task at hand. If you you want to argure policy then take it up with the damn politicians that put these men in their graves.I like posts 2-3-5. You can agrue what you want, these men were as brave as we have ever seen, my apologies to a few feel that feel that’s these mens sacrifices didnt meet up to their own personal standards. My advice to the critics is next time you gear up and you do it it your way.

  5. you all talk of respect and freedom but have you no faith in god? if you believe in god hard enough and you stay faithful god will put you out of harms way you should know that if we just stopped fighting we would have peace of war and we would not need people to kill other human beings.we fight over land that isn’t ours we fight over oil that isn’t ours we fight over name calling we fight because the united states military is a big bully in disguise always needing someone to put down and beat up don’t you see that supporting the military will just put us in more danger than we are when the troops go home? please listen to me you will be grateful one day and just pray we don’t mess with Russia they are much more advanced and powerful than us.please put this in your hearts and minds thank you.

  6. i have sympathy for those that choose to fight and possibly die for a country that they love, rather than the person who talks about war like its some sort of political science discussion. our “imperialism” has garnered us no extra lands and no extra resources. yet those people who bash our “police actions and imperialism” are the first to complain when atrocities go unpunished around the world (somalia, darfur, africa as a whole). i respect the soldier, who defends openly the country you take for granted. please dont use the freedom to speak to speak ill of the people who provide you that freedom.

  7. Ron Paul 2012– then why did we pursue a “Germany first” strategy when we were only by attacked by Japan? You are of course entitled to your opinion, but the grunt on the ground has little to do with the politics that sent him there. He fights to simply stay alive.

  8. I have more sympathy for WWII vets than modern soldiers because WWII was actually a defensive war, while all others since (and before; i.e. the banana wars, the mexican and spanish-americans wars, the war of 1812, have all been either american provoked or american imperialism/”police actions”.)

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